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C. F. CLAY, Manager 









An Andaman Islander shooting fish with bow and arrow 
on the reefs at Port Blair 

l''ron tispicc. 






Af Rr'pROWN, M.A. 





7 2- 



Dr a. C. HADDON, F.R.S. 


Dr W. H. R. rivers, F.R.S. 





THIS book contains some part of the results of anthropo- 
logical research carried out in the Andaman Islands in the 
years 1906 to 1908, under the terms of the Anthony Wilkin 
Studentship in Ethnology of the University of Cambridge. The 
funds supplied by the studentship were supplemented by grants 
from the Royal Society and from the government of India. In 
its original form the monograph was presented as a fellowship 
thesis at Trinity College. The work of rewriting it was interrupted 
by absence from England and was only completed in 1914. 
There has since been a long delay in publication as a result of 
the war. 

The book deals with the social institutions of the tribes of 
the Great Andaman. These had previously been studied by 
Mr E. H. Man to whose work I have been obliged to make many 
references in order that my account may be as complete as 
possible. I should have preferred to devote my attention almost 
exclusively to the natives of the Little Andaman, about whom 
very little is known, I found, however, that it was not possible 
in the time at my disposal to do any satisfactory work amongst 
these people owing to the difficulty of language. The natives of 
the Little Andaman know no language but their own, and that 
is so little related to the languages of the Great Andaman that 
even a thorough knowledge of the latter is of almost no use in 
an attempt to learn the former. I spent nearly three months 
camped with natives of the Little Andaman, giving most of the 
time to learning their language. No one who has not actually 
made the attempt to learn the language of a savage people with- 
out the help of an interpreter, can form an adequate idea of the 
difficulties of the task. At the end of three months I found that 
at the same rate of progress it would take me two or three years 
to learn to speak the language sufficiently well to begin to 


question the natives about their customs and beliefs and under- 
stand their answers, I was therefore regretfully compelled to give 
up the idea of making a study of the people of the Little Anda- 
man, and devoted the remainder of my time to the study of the 
tribes of the Great Andaman, particularly those of the North 
Andaman among whom Mr Man had not worked. I kept one 
boy from the Little Andaman with me for some months in the 
hope that he would learn sufficient Hindustani to act as an inter- 
preter and so enable any future investigator to begin work with 
the great advantage that I had lacked. 

In my work amongst the natives of the Great Andaman I at 
first made use of Hindustani, which the younger men and women 
all speak more or less imperfectly, and gradually acquired a 
knowledge of the dialects of the North Andaman. Towards the 
end of my stay in the islands I was able to obtain the services 
as interpreter of a man of the Akar-Bale tribe who spoke English 
well and was of considerable intelligence. He is shown in the 
photographs of Plates V and XIII. With his help I was able to 
do some work with the Akar-Bale and A-Pucikwar tribes, and I 
found that with such an interpreter I was able to obtain much 
fuller and more reliable results than I could by using my own 
knowledge of the native language supplemented by Hindustani. 
If I had had his services from the outset my work would have 
been much easier and more thorough. 

The results of my researches on the physical anthropology 
of the Andaman Islanders have not been published. I hoped to 
be able to obtain the services of some one more competent in 
such matters than myself to assist or direct me in the measure- 
ment and study of the collection of skulls and skeletons that I 
brought to England and that is now in the Anthropological 
Museum at Cambridge. In this I was disappointed, and absence 
from England has prevented me from completing my work in 
this branch of research. 

The languages of the Andaman Islands are chiefly of interest 
as affording material for the study of comparative grammar and 


the psychology of language. I had hoped to be able to make 
some use of the large mass of linguistic material collected by 
Mr E. H. Man and arranged by Sir Richard Temple, which the 
latter was so kind as to permit me to examine. Mr Man, how- 
ever, expressed the intention of publishing that material himself. 
Therefore, rather than delay longer, I began the publication of 
my own linguistic studies in a series of papers in the journal 
Anthropos, of which, however, only the first had appeared when 
the outbreak of war interrupted them^ I cannot say when the 
publication of these notes will be resumed. 

Chapters V and VI of the present work contain an attempt 
at an interpretation of the Andamanese customs and beliefs, 
which I regard as the most important and hope will be the 
most valuable part of the book. It is some years since they were 
written and although they have undergone some revision they 
now seem to me so inadequately to express my thought that 
I could wish to rewrite them entirely. At the time they were 
written (1910) they exhibited an attempt to develop a new 
method in the interpretation of the institutions of a primitive 
people. That method will not perhaps seem so novel now as it 
would have done then. However, I hope that the two chapters 
will still have value as an example of the method which I believe 
to be fundamental in the science that has lately come to be 
known as social anthropology ^ 

Of the many imperfections of the book I am, I think, only 
too well aware. It is indeed an apprentice work, for it was 
through my work in the Andamans that I really learnt anthro- 
pology. However good may be his preliminary training (and 
mine under Drs Haddon, Rivers and Duckworth at Cambridge 

1 "Notes on the Languages of the Andaman Islands," by A. R. Brown, Anthropos, 
Vol. IX, 1914, pp. 36 — 52 with map. This paper contains notes on I, The Relations 
of the Andamanese Languages, and II, The Formation of Words in the Language of 
the Little Andaman. 

^ I hope to be able to publish shortly the first volume of a work in which the same 
method is applied to the interpretation of the social institutions of the natives of 


was, I think, as thorough as possible) it is only by actually living 
with and working amongst a primitive people that the social 
anthropologist can acquire his real training. Naturally work 
done while learning how to do it must necessarily be faulty. 

It is very late now to place on record my obligations to the 
officers of the settlement of Port Blair, particularly to Colonel 
Herbert and Colonel Browning, the successive chief commis- 
sioners, for their kindness and help during my stay in the islands. 

To Dr Haddon and Dr Rivers I am obliged for reading the 
proofs and for many helpful suggestions. 


University of Cape Town, 
January 1922. 



Introduction i 

I. The Social Organisation 22 

II. Ceremonial Customs 88 

III. Religious and Magical Beliefs . . . . . 136 

IV. Myths and Legends . 186 

V. The Interpretation of Andamanese Customs and 

Beliefs: Ceremonial 225 

VI. The Interpretation of Andamanese Customs and 

Beliefs : Myths and Legends . . . . 330 

Appendix A. The Technical Culture of the Anda- 
man Islanders 407 

Appendix B. The Spelling of Andamanese Words . 495 

Index 499 


Frontispiece. An Andaman Islander shooting fish with bow and arrow on 
the reefs at Port Blair 












Map I. 

Map 2. 

A young man of the North Andaman 

A young married woman ..... 

A man of the North Andaman and his son. (The 

man's height is 1438 mm., 4 feet 8 inches) 

A married woman of the Great Andaman wearing 

belts oi Pandanus leaf and ornaments oi Dentalium 


A man of the Akar-Bale tribe with South Andaman 
bow and arrows, wearing belt and necklace of 
netting and Dentalium shell. (Height 1494 mm., 

4 feet 9 inches) 

Portion of the village of Moi-lepto, Akar-Bale tribe. 
On the right is an unfinished mat of palm leaves 

for the roof of a new hut 

A hut in the village of Moi-lepto, showing the mode 

of construction 

A village of the Middle Andaman . . 
Woman decorated with odu clay .... 
Woman decorated with odu clay .... 
Three men and a young woman decorated with odu 


A young man decorated with white clay in readiness 

for a dance 

A man with a pattern of white clay on his face 

A woman with her child 

A young married woman, showing pattern scarified 

on body and arms 

A girl during the ceremony at puberty, decorated 

with strips of Pandanus leaf 

A woman wearing clay on her forehead as a sign 

of mourning 

A girl wearing her sister's skull .... 
The peace-making dance of the North Andaman . 

South-eastern Asia, showing the present distribution 

of the Negrito Race 

The Andaman Islands, showing the distribution of 

To face p. 26 

















Plan of Andamanese Village 34 

Fig. I. Section of Little Andaman bow, in the middle and near the 

end 420 

„ 2. Shoulder of Little Andaman bow 420 

„ 3. Bow-string of twisted fibre, Little Andaman . . . 421 
„ 4. Diagram showing the method of making the loop in the end 

of the Little Andaman bow-string 421 

„ 5. Section of bow from North Sentinel Island . . . . 422 

„ 6. Section of Jarawa bow 422 

„ 7. Upper end of South Andaman bow 423 

„ 8. Section across the blade of a South Andaman bow . . 424 

„ 9. Loop of bow-string. South Andaman . . . , • 425 

,5 ID. Ornament on South Andaman bow ..... 426 

„ II. Section across the blade of a North Andaman bow . . 427 

„ 12. North Andaman bow seen from the front .... 429 
„ 13. North Andaman bow; A, in the half-strung or reversed 

position ; B, in the fully strung position .... 429 

„ 14. Toy bow of the North Andaman 432 

„ 15. Section across the middle of four Semang bows . . . 434 

„ 16. Fish-arrow of the Great Andaman 437 

„ 17. Head of pig-arrow. Great Andaman 437 

„ 18. Pig-arrow with detachable head, Great Andaman . . 437 

„ 19. Method of making the cord of the Great Andaman pig-arrow 437 

„ 20. Pig-arrow, Little Andaman 44° 

„ 21. Head of Jarawa pig-arrow 44° 

„ 22. Arrow with head of Areca wood. Great Andaman . . 440 

„ 23. Harpoon, Great Andaman • 44° 

„ 24. Turtle net. South Andaman 442 

„ 25. Knot used in making the North Andaman turtle net . . 443 

„ 26. North Andaman fish-gig 444 

„ 27. Boar's tusk, used as a spokeshave ..... 448 

„ 28. Adze and knife 449 

„ 29. Method of making bamboo mat, Little Andaman . . 456 
„ 30. Diagram showing the technique used in making mats of 

thatch 457 

„ 31. Diagram showing the technique used in Great Andaman 

mats 457 

„ 32 a, 32 b. Pot, tied up for carrying, North Andaman . 459, 460 



Fig. 33. Basket for carrying pot, South Andaman .... 461 

„ 34. Portion of basket of Little Andaman 462 

„ 35. Portion of basket of South Andaman 464 

„ 36. Pig's skull with basket-work, Jarawa 466 

„ 2)7 ■ Diagram showing netting needle, and method of netting . 471 

„ 38. Shape of North Andaman pot 473 

„ 39. Shape of South Andaman pot 474 

„ 40. Necklaces of mangrove seed-tops, Great Andaman . . 480 
„ 41. Diagram showing method of making ornamental cord, Little 

Andaman 481 

„ 42. Designs incised or painted on belts of Pandanus leaf. Great 

Andaman 484 

„ 43. Designs on bamboo necklace from the North Andaman . 485 

„ 44. Transverse section of canoe and outrigger .... 487 
„ 45. Showing manner in which the boom is connected with the 

float . 488 

„ 46. Paddle 489 


The Andaman Islands are part of a chain of islands 
stretching from Cape Negrais in Burma to Achin Head in 
Sumatra. This line of islands forms a single geographical 
system, as it were a submarine range of mountains, the highest 
points rising here and there above the surface of the ocean. 
Some 80 miles or so from Cape Negrais lies the first of the 
islands in the chain, Preparis Island, between which and the 
mainland the sea depth does not exceed 100 fathoms. South- 
wards of this the submarine ridge sinks to a depth of about 
150 fathoms, rising again to form the small group of islands 
known as the Cocos, some 50 miles from Preparis. Geographi- 
cally the Cocos may be regarded as part of the Andaman 
Group. Landfall Island, the most northerly point of the 
Andamans proper, is only distant from them some 30 miles, 
and the sea depth between does not exceed 45 fathoms. The 
Andaman Group itself consists of the Great and Little Andaman 
with their outlying islets, and occupies a distance approximately 
north and south of about 210 miles. Eighty miles to the 
south of the Andamans lie the Nicobar Islands, a scattered 
archipelago occupying a distance of about 160 miles from north 
to south. The sea between the Andamans and the Nicobars is 
over 700 fathoms deep. Deep sea also divides the Nicobars 
from Sumatra, which is about no miles distant from the most 
southerly point of Great Nicobar. 

This line of islands is part of a long fold extending from 
the eastern end of the Himalayas, which includes the Arakan 
Yomah Range of Burma and the Andaman and Nicobar 

B, A. I 


Islands and finds its continuation in the islands off the west 
coast of Sumatra^ 

On the west the Andamans are separated from the coast of 
Madras, 700 miles distant, by the Sea of Bengal. On the east 
the Andaman Sea, a depression with a depth of over 1000 fathoms, 
separates the Andamans and Nicobars from the Malay Isthmus 
and Peninsula. Across the Andaman Sea, less than 100 miles 
distant from the Andamans, there runs a line of volcanic activity, 
marked by two small islands. Barren Island in Lat. 12" 15' N. and 
Long. 93° 50' E., and Narkondam in Lat. 13° 26' N. and Long. 

The Cocos, the Andamans and the Nicobars are now part of 
the Indian Empire. The Cocos Islands are occupied by a 
station for wireless telegraphy. In the Andaman Islands there 
is a penal settlement at Port Blair, to which are sent the 
criminals of India and Burma. The Nicobars are treated as 
one with the Andamans for administrative purposes. 

Until the nineteenth century the Cocos Islands were un- 
inhabited. The Andamans and the Nicobars have for many 
centuries been inhabited by two entirely different races. The 
Andamanese belong to that branch of the human species known 
to anthropologists as the Negrito race. They are short of 
stature with black skins and frizzy hair. The Nicobarese, on 
the other hand, resemble the races of Indo-China and Malaya, 
and have brown skins and lank hair, and are of medium stature. 

The Andaman Islands consist of the Great Andaman and 
the Little Andaman, and a number of smaller islands. The 
Great Andaman may be regarded as one island, although it is 
divided by narrow sea water creeks into four areas, often 
spoken of as separate islands and called North Andaman, 

^ The formation of the Arakan Fold (including the Andaman and Nicobar 
Islands), dates from the middle of the Tertiary Period, and was apparently connected 
with the great movements that produced the Himalaya- Alpine mountain system and 
the Circum-Pacific Fold. The Andaman Sea, in the later Tertiary period, was 
prolonged much further to the north, over the region now occupied by the Pegu 

2 This line of volcanic activity is a minor continuation of the Sunda Range of 
volcanoes of Java and Sumatra. It is continued northward, parallel to the Arakan 
Fold, as far as the extinct volcano of Puppadoung, east of Pagan, not far from 
Lat. 21°. 


Middle Andaman, Baratang and South Andaman. It is a 
long narrow stretch of land with a much indented coast, 
surrounded by many smaller islands, of which the most im- 
portant are Interview Island off the west coast, Ritchie's 
Archipelago on the east, Rutland Island at the extreme south, 
and the outlying North Sentinel Island. The length of the 
Great Andaman with Rutland Island is nearly i6o miles, while 
the breadth from sea to sea is nowhere more than 20 miles. 
The Little Andaman lies to the south of the Great Andaman, 
about 30 miles distant from Rutland Island, from which it is 
separated by a shallow strait with a maximum depth of only 
21 fathoms. The island is about 26 miles long from north to 
south and about 16 miles wide. 

Viewed from the sea the islands appear as a series of hills, 
nowhere of any great height, covered from sky-line to high- 
water mark with dense and lofty forest. The hill-ranges run 
approximately north and south, in the same direction as the 
islands themselves, and attain a greater elevation on the east 
than on the west. The highest point of the North Andaman is 
Saddle Peak (2402 feet), that of Middle Andaman is Mt Diavolo 
(1678 feet), while the South Andaman has the Mt Harriett Range 
(1505 feet), and in Rutland Island there is Mt Foord (1422 feet). 
There are no streams of any size. The water drains from the 
hills into tidal creeks running through mangrove swamps, often 
many miles in length. The coast is broken by a number of 
magnificent harbours. The shores are fringed with extensive 
coral reefs, and on these and in the creeks there is abundance 
of fish and molluscs. 

The islands, save for the clearings of the Penal Settlement, 
are covered with dense tropical forest. There are few mammals, 
the only two of any size being a species of pig {Szcs anda- 
manensis, Blyth) and a civet-cat {Paradoxurus tytlerii, Tytler). 
The other mammals are a few species of rats, a tree-shrew and 
some species of bats. Of birds there are many different species, 
some of them peculiar to the islands. The reptiles include a 
considerable number of species of snakes, and a few species of 
lizards, of which the most noteworthy is the large Monitor 
lizard ( Varanus salvator). 


The climate is warm and moist, and fairly uniform throughout 
the year. The mean temperature for the year at Port Blair is 
about 86° F. (80° F. on the wet bulb thermometer). The lowest 
temperatures are recorded in January and February, and the 
highest in March, April, or May. The average lowest tempera- 
ture in the South Andaman over a period of seven years is 
667° F., the minimum during that period being 63° F, The 
average highest temperature in the shade for the same period 
was 96° F., the maximum being 97°. The average diurnal 
variation is 10°. 

The average rainfall of seven stations in the Penal Settlement 
of Port Blair, for a period of seven years, was 138 inches per 
annum, the averages of the different stations varying from 104 
to 172 inches. For the same period the average number of 
rainy days in the year was 177, the minimum being 160 and the 
maximum 196. 

The islands are sufficiently far from the Equator to have a 
single well-defined rainy season. The greater part of the rain 
falls during the south-west monsoon, which lasts from the middle 
of May to the middle of November. The north-east monsoon 
extends over the other six months of the year, which include 
the dry and hot seasons. 

The average weather can be shown most conveniently by 
means of a calendar. 

January. Cool; little or no rain; wind N.N.E. ; nights sometimes 

February. Cool ; little or no rain ; wind N.N.E. ; very clear ; light airs. 

March. Hot by day, cool nights ; little or no rain ; wind N.N.E. ; light 
airs, occasional haze ; the weather gets hotter as the month passes. 

April. Very hot ; little or no rain ; wind variable, ofF-shore at night 
and on-shore by day ; calm and hazy. 

May. The first half of the month like April; the south-west monsoon 
sets in about the 15th; the remainder of the month cooler and with wind 

June. Fairly cool ; heavy rains ; wind W.S.W., squally. 

July. ] 

August. y Do. do. do. do. 

September, j 

October. Variable wind and weather ; generally some calm weather ; 
waterspouts may occur. 


November. During the first half of the month the wind and weather 
are very uncertain ; a cyclone may occur ; after the middle of the month 
the north-east monsoon sets in. 

December. Fairly cool ; not much rain ; wind N.N.E. 

Many of the violent cyclonic storms that sweep across the 
Sea of Bengal seem to form themselves a little to the south of 
the Andamans. Cyclones of exceptional violence struck Port 
Cornwallis in 1844 and Port Blair in 1864 and 1891. 

The aborigines of the Andaman Islands have been in their 
present home for a great many centuries. It is not possible to 
say with any degree of certainty how or when they first reached 
the islands. Geological and other evidence would seem to show 
that the Andamans were united to the mainland along the line 
of the Arakan Fold in later Tertiary times, but even this is 
perhaps not quite certain^ In any case the period of past land 
connection seems to be so remote that it had probably ceased 
to exist at the time when the islands were peopled by the 
ancestors of the present natives. If the ancestors of the 
Andamanese reached the islands at the time of a past land 
connection, they can only have done so from the Arakan region 
of Burma. On the other hand, if they travelled by sea they 
must almost certainly have started from the Burmese coast 
(Pegu or Arakan). The north-east monsoon would drift them 
thence on to the Andamans. It is conceivable that they might 
have travelled from Sumatra by way of the Nicobars, but the 
north-east monsoon would have opposed their progress in this 
direction, while the south-west monsoon would have driven 
them to the east of the Andamans 2. It is hardly possible to 
imagine them coming from the Malay Peninsula across the wide 

^ The flora of the Andamans and Cocos contains a number of species, the 
presence of which can only be explained by the supposition of a past land con- 
nection with the Arakan region. (See Prain, " The Vegetation of the Coco Group," 
Journ. Asiatic Soc. of Bengal, Vol. LX, Part II, pp. 283 — 406.) On the other hand, 
the paucity of mammalian fauna is such as to lead to the conclusion that the islands 
were isolated at a period when the mammals now typical of the mainland did not 
exist there. (See Miller, "Mammals of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands," Proc. 
National Museum, U.S.A. Vol. XXI v.) 

^ There is no evidence of the former existence of Negritos in the Nicobars, but 
on the other hand, there is equally no direct evidence of their former presence in 
Lower Burma. 


Stretch of the Andaman Sea, The balance of probability is in 
favour of the view that the Andamans were peopled, either by- 
sea or by land, from the region of Lower Burma. 

Of the Negrito race, to which the Andamanese belong, 
there are two other branches still in existence. The first of 
these consists of the people who may be conveniently spoken 
of as the Semang, inhabiting the interior of the Malay Peninsula 
between 5° and 7° N. Latitude. The other branch of this 
primitive race is found in the interior of the Philippine Islands. 
From their present distribution it is clear that the Negritos 
must at some long past time have wandered over a wide area in 
south-eastern Asia. The connection between the Andamanese 
and the Semang can only have been either through Sumatra 
and the Nicobars, or, more probably, by way of Lower Burma, 
Communication between the Malay Peninsula and the Philippine 
Islands must have been either by way of Borneo or Celebes, or 
else by way of Annam and Cochin China, It is certainly 
many centuries, and probably many thousands of years, since 
the three surviving branches of the race were cut off from all 
communication with each other\ 

In the Malay Peninsula and in the Philippines the Negritos 
have for a long time been living in contact with other races. 
They have been driven back from the coasts and fertile valleys 
into the less accessible districts. There is ample evidence that 
they have adopted many of the customs of the races around 
them, and have even adopted to a great extent the language 
of their alien neighbours. The original Negrito culture and 
language and even perhaps the original physical type have been 
modified in these two branches of the race. 

In the case of the Andaman Islanders it is possible that they 
have been entirely isolated in their island home, and have not 
been affected by contact with other races, but have been free to 
develop their own culture in adaptation to their own environ- 
ment. If a hypothesis to this effect were accepted we should 
see in the Andamanese the direct descendants, in physical 
character, in language, and in culture, of the original Negrito 

^ On the accompanying map of south-eastern Asia the regions now occupied by 
the Negritos are shown by the shading. 

Mai' I 



•^ / 







race. In historical times it is known that the islands have been 
avoided by mariners navigating the adjacent seas, owing to the 
fact that the natives attacked all strangers who landed or were 
wrecked upon their shores. Moreover, the islands offered little 
inducement to visitors or settlers. The coconut, which is one 
of the mainstays of life in tropical islands, was not found in the 
Andamans prior to the first European settlement. 

The earliest authentic reference to the Andaman Islands 
seems to be that of two Arab travellers dating from A.D. 871. 
In the eighteenth century the Abbe Renaudot translated the 
account of these travels. Of the Andamans we read, " Au dela 
de ces deux Isles on trouve la mer appellee d'Andeman. Les 
peuples qui habitent sur la coste, mangent de la chair humaine, 
toute crue. lis sont noirs, ils ont les cheveux crespus, le visage 
et les yeux afifreux, les pieds fort grands et presque longs d'une 
coudee, et ils vont tout nuds. lis n'ont point de barques, et s'ils 
en avoient ils ne mangeroient pas tous les passants qu'ils peuvent 
attraper. Les vaissaux se trouvant retardez dans leur route 
par les vents contraires, sont souvent obligez dans ces mers de 
mouiller a la coste ou sont ces Barbares pour y faire de 
I'eau, lors qu'ils ont consomme celle qu'ils avoient a bord. 
Ils en attrapent souvent quelques-uns, mais la pluspart se 

It would seem that the Chinese and Japanese knew the 
islands in the first millenium A.D., and referred to them by the 
names Yeng-t'o-mang and Andaban respectively^. Marco Polo 
gives a brief notice of the islands. " Angaman is a very large 
island, not governed by a king. The inhabitants are idolaters, 
and are a most brutish and savage race, having heads, eyes, and 
teeth resembling those of the canine species. Their dispositions 
are cruel, and every person, not being of their own nation, whom 
they can lay their hands upon, they kill and eat^" Some of 
Marco Polo's statements about the Andamans, as that the natives 

^ Anciennes Relations des Indes et de la Chine ; De Deux Voyageurs Mahometans, 
qui y allerent dans le neuvieme siecle ; Traduites d'Arabe (par M. I'Abbe Renaudot). 
Paris, MDCCXvni, pp. 5 and 6. 

2 Takakasu's Edition of I-tsing, pp. xxviii seq. 

^ The Travels of Marco Polo, Edited by John Masefield, Everyman^ s Library, 
1908, p. 347. 


live on rice and milk, and that they have coconuts, and plantains, 
are incorrect. It is evident that all he knew of the islands was 
derived from hearsay. The passage quoted is only of importance 
as showing that the reputation of the Andamanese was such as to 
cause them to be feared and avoided. 

A more trustworthy account is that of Master Caesar 
Frederike, who passed near the Nicobars in 1566. "From 
Nicubar to Pegu is, as it were, a row or chain of an infinite 
number of islands, of which many are inhabited with wild people ; 
and they call those islands the Islands of Andemaon, and they 
call their people savage or wild, because they eat one another : 
also, these islands have war one with another, for they have small 
barques, and with them they take one another, and so eat one 
another : and if by evil chance any ship be lost on those 
islands, as many have been, there is not one man of those ships 
lost there that escapeth uneaten or unslain. These people have 
not any acquaintance with any other people, neither have they 
trade with any, but live only of such fruits as those islands yields" 

There are numerous references to the Andamans in the 
seventeenth and eighteenth century, and all of them show that 
the islands were feared and avoided. During these and the 
previous centuries wrecks must have occurred in considerable 
numbers, and it is probable, from what is now known of the 
natives, that the mariners would be immediately slain. Visits 
were also paid by ships whose water supply had run out, and 
by Malay pirates. There is evidence that boats, either Malay 
or Chinese, sometimes visited the islands in search of edible 
birds' nests and trepang. In some cases Andamanese were 
captured and carried off as slaves. It is extremely improbable 

^ Extracts of Master Caesar Frederike : his Eighteene Yeeres' Indian Observa- 
tions, Pure has : his Pilgriiiies, London, 1625; Vol. II, p. 17 10. In spite of the 
repeated descriptions of the Andamanese by early writers as ferocious cannibals, 
there is good reason to think that they have not deserved quite so evil a reputation. 
If they had ever been cannibals they had certainl)' abandoned the custom by the 
time the islands were occupied in 1858. It is improl>abIe that such inveterate man- 
eaters, as they are supposed to have been, would have entirely altered their ways in 
the course of a century or two. The legend probably had its origin in the fact that 
the Andamanese attacked all strangers who landed on their coasts, and (in the North 
Andaman, at any rate) often disposed of the bodies of slain enemies by cutting them 
in pieces and burning them on a fire. 


that such visitors ever succeeded in establishing friendly relations 
with the islanders. 

There is one way in which the life of the Andamanese was 
affected by the vessels that visited or were wrecked upon their 
shores, since it was by this means that they learnt the use 
of iron. 

It is impossible now to determine the date at which they 
became acquainted with the metal. The earliest reference to 
the subject is in ar> account of a visit to the Andamans 
in 1 77 1, where it is shown that the natives were at that time 
aware of the value of iron\ Until the middle of the nine- 
teenth century the only supply of the metal was from wrecks, 
of which there have always been a fair number. 

Until the end of the eighteenth century there was no 
attempt made to open up communication with the Andaman 
Islands, although the Nicobar Islands were the scene of several 
attempts to establish a colony. In 1788, owing to the menace 
to shipping constituted by the islands and their inhabitants, the 
East India Company, under Lord Cornwallis, commissioned 
Archibald Blair to start a settlement, convicts being sent as 
labourers. The settlement was founded in September, 1789, 
in the harbour now known as Port Blair, but then called Port 
Cornwallis. In spite of the hostility of the natives the colony 
seems to have been successful. In 1792 it was transferred from 
the first site to the harbour in the North Andaman now known 
as Port Cornwallis. The transfer was made with the idea of 
creating a naval base, for which the spot chosen was well 
adapted. Unfortunately the new site proved to be very un- 
healthy, and in 1796 the scheme was abandoned, the convicts 
were transferred to Penang, and the settlers returned to 

^ The account is that of a visit to the Andamans in 177 1 by John Ritchie, 
published in the Indian Antiquary, Vol. xxx, 1961, pp. 2 3 2 seq. Two natives 
came off to the ship in a canoe, and Ritchie wiites : " I gave them some nails and 
bits of old iron which pleased them much; and about three in the afternoon, they went 
into the canoe, and tried hard to pull the chain plates from the vessel's side. They 
went astern when this would not do, and dragged strongly and long at the rudder 
chains ; but these were too well fixed ; and at last, they went towards the shore at 
an easy rate, looking at their nails, and singing all the way." 


During the next sixty years the islands remained unoccupied 
save by the aborigines. There were a number of wrecks in 
different parts of the islands, and in some cases the crews were 
slain. In 1839 ^ geologist, Dr Heifer, visited the islands in 
the hope of finding minerals, and was killed by the natives. 
In 1844 two transports, the Briton and the Runnymede, were 
wrecked in a cyclone on Ritchie's Archipelago, one of the 
ships being thrown high up over a reef into a mangrove swamp. 
The crew and soldiers were safely landed, and were eventually 
rescued with hardly any loss of life. As they were a large 
party they were safe from the possible attacks of the natives, 
and they lived on stores rescued from the wrecks. 

In view of the number of wrecks that occurred on the 
islands and the desirability of establishing there some harbour 
where vessels might safely call for water or shelter from storms, 
the East India Company again considered the question of 
colonizing the Andamans. When the Company, at the end 
of the Indian Mutiny, found themselves with a large number 
of prisoners on their hands, it was decided to create a new 
Penal Settlement, and the site of the settlement of 1788 was 
chosen for this purpose, and renamed Port Blair. 

The Penal Settlement was established in March 1858, and 
has been in existence ever since. The aborigines were hostile 
from the outset, and gave much trouble by their raids. They 
made a determined effort to oust the invaders from their 
country. To establish friendly relations with them an institution 
known as the Andamanese Homes was founded, to provide free 
rations and lodging, and medical attendance, to such of them as 
could be induced to visit the Settlement. Through the efforts 
of successive officers in charge of these Homes friendly relations 
were established, first of all with the Aka-Bea tribe in the 
neighbourhood of Port Blair, then with other tribes of the 
South Andaman, and at a later date with the inhabitants of 
the North Andaman and the Little Andaman. At the present 
day there is only one body of Andamanese still persistently 
hostile, and these are the so-called Jarawa of the; interior of the 
South Andaman. Th^sQ Jarawa, since about 1870, have made 
repeated attacks on isolated parties of convicts and forest 

Map II 

Great Coco I. 

Little Coco I. 

Coco Channel 



r^dfl' '• 


Interview I 




( Z40a 



Sentinel I. 


Rutland I 

<jj Ritchie's 


Cinque Islands 

■ age 


Narkondam I. ^ 

(Uninhabited) 2330 

rs Barren I. 



Flat Rock 

English Miles 

The Andaman Islands, showing the distribution of tribes 


workers and on the friendly Andamanese. Punitive expeditions 
have been sent against them on several occasions, and attempts 
to set up friendly relations with them have been made by 
leaving presents in their huts, and by capturing some of them 
and keeping them for a time at Port Blair. At the present time 
the Jqrawa are as hostile as ever. 

Although of one race throughout, the Andaman Islanders 
are divided into several groups, with differences of language 
and culture. There are two main divisions, which will be 
spoken of as the Great Andaman Group and the Little 
Andaman Group respectively. The Great Andaman Group 
includes all the natives of the Great Andaman with the 
exception of those of the interior of the South Andaman 
who are known as Jarawa. The Little Andaman Group 
includes all the inhabitants of the Little Andaman, those 
of the North Sentinel Island and the Jqrawa of the South 

These two different divisions 'exhibit many differences of 
language and culture. All the languages of the Great Andaman 
Group are closely related to one another. They have the same 
grammatical structure, and a large number of roots are the 
same in all or in several of them. In the same way the 
language of the Jqrawa, so far as it is known, is very similar 
to that of the natives of the Little Andaman. On the other 
hand when the language of the Little Andaman is compared 
with the Great Andaman languages there is a very striking 
difference. Of a vocabulary of several hundred words collected 
in the Little Andaman there were less than a dozen in which 
the root or stem was clearly the same as that of words in the 
Great Andaman. While the grammatical structure of the 
languages of the two groups is fundamentally the same, this 
can only be shown in a somewhat detailed analysis, and there 
are many important differences. 

With regard to technical culture the same grouping appears. 
There is a general similarity between all the tribes of the 
Great Andaman Group, while the Jarawa and the inhabitants 
of the Little Andaman have a technical culture of their own 
that is markedly different from that of the other division. 


The natives of the Great Andaman Group are divided into 
tribes, of which there are ten, each with its own distinctive 
language or dialect, and with a name. The following is a list 
of these tribes, passing from north to south : — Aka-Cari, 
Aka-Kqra, Aka-Bo, Aka-Jeru, Aka-Kede, Aka-Kol, Oko-Juwoi, 
A-Pucikwar, Akar-Bale, and Aka-Bea. In each case the name 
is given in the form in which it is used by the tribe itself. 
Thus the Aka-Bea speak of the A-Pucikwar as Aka-Bojig-yab, 
and refer to the Akar-Bale as Aka-Bala-wa, and there are 
similar variants of other tribal names. 

The natives of the Little Andaman refer to themselves as 
Onge (men). It is probable that the so-called Jqrawa of the 
South Andaman have the same word. In a vocabulary obtained 
by Colebrooke in 1790 from a Jarawa near Port Blair, the word 
Mincopie is given as meaning a native of the Andaman Islands. 
This would seem to be simply the same phrase as the Little 
Andaman M'onge-bi = I am Onge, or I am a " man." The word 
Jarawa is apparently derived from the Aka-Bea language, but 
is now used by all the friendly natives (i.e. the natives of the 
Great Andaman Group) to denote those of the Little Andaman 
Group. In the official publications dealing with the Andamans, 
however, the term Jarawa has come to be applied solely to the 
hostile natives of the Great Andaman. It is in this sense that 
the word is used in the present work, the name Onge being 
reserved for the natives of the Little Andaman. It must be 
remembered, however, that the so-called Jarawa probably call 
themselves Onge, while the Onge of the Little Andaman are 
called Jarawa by the natives of the friendly tribes of the Great 
Andaman. The name Mincopie was at one time common in 
ethnological literature as a term for the Andaman Islanders. 

It is convenient to divide the tribes of the Great Andaman 
Group into two subdivisions, to be spoken of as the Northern 
Group (including the first four tribes mentioned above) and 
the Southern Group (including the other six tribes). Between 
these two divisions there are a number of differences of culture. 
They have, for example, different forms of bow, and different 
kinds of baskets. The differences between them are much 
slighter than those between the Great Andaman tribes and 


the natives of the Little Andaman, but they are of sufficient 
importance to make it necessary to distinguish them from one 

The different divisions of the Andamanese may for con- 
venience be set out in the form of a table. 

I. Great Andaman Group. 

A. Northern Group, including the tribes: — 


B. Southern Group, including the tribes : — 





A kar-Bale, 


II. Little Andaman Group. 

A. The inhabitants of the Little Andaman {Onge). 

B. The Jqrawa of the South Andaman. 

C. The inhabitants of the North Sentinel Island. 

The distribution of these different groups as it was in 1858 
is shown on the map. 

There is one important feature of this distribution that 
requires a few words of explanation, and that is the presence 
in the South Andaman of the Jqrawa who are allied by 
language and technical culture to the natives of the Little 
Andaman. There can be no doubt that the Jqrawa are the 
descendants of emigrants who at some time in the past made 
their way across from the Little Andaman and thrust them- 
selves in upon the inhabitants of Rutland Island and the South 
Andaman, maintaining their footing in the new country by 
force of arms. 


The identity of the flora and fauna of the Little Andaman 
with those of the Great Andaman and the shallowness of the 
strait between the islands, suggests that at no very remote 
period they have been united by a continuous land connection. 
Whether or not this connection existed at the time when the 
islands were first peopled, it is at any rate reasonable to suppose 
that the original ancestors of the present Andamanese had one 
language and one culture. Once the Little Andaman was 
peopled, the strait between it and the Great Andaman seems to 
have acted as an effective barrier, to keep the two divisions of 
the race apart for many centuries. During the period of this 
separation each division followed its own line of development, 
with the result that there arose the considerable differences of 
language and culture that now exist. 

At a much later date than this separation of the Andamanese 
into two isolated groups, and after the typical differences of 
language and culture had been developed, a party of natives 
must have made their way by canoe from the north of the 
Little Andaman to Rutland Island. They would have found 
that country occupied by natives of the Great Andaman Group. 
In spite of this they succeeded in establishing themselves in the 
South Andaman, and became the progenitors of the present 
Jqrawa. Owing to the difference of language all communica- 
tion between the Little Andaman invaders and those already 
occupying the invaded country would be impossible. (At the 
present day a native of the Little Andaman cannot make 
himself understood to a native of one of the Great Andaman 
tribes.) The result has been that the Jqrawa have lived in a 
state of constant warfare with their neighbours, and this hostility 
has lasted down to the present day. 

It is only on the above hypothesis that it is possible to 
explain how it comes about that we find in the South Andaman 
people with language and technical culture very similar to that 
of the Little Andaman, and differing from that of the remaining 
inhabitants of the Great Andaman. It is impossible to say 
how long it is since this invasion from the Little Andaman took 
place. At the end of the eighteenth century the Jqrawa were 
to be found in the neighbourhood of Port Blair. Lieutenant 


Colebrooke in 1790 came across an individual of this tribe 
and obtained from him a vocabulary. A comparison of this 
vocabulary with the language of the Little Andaman shows it 
to be essentially the same language^ 

A few words must be said on the position of the natives of 
the North Sentinel Island. Almost nothing is known of these 
people. What little information is available concerning their 
weapons and implements seems to point to their belonging to 
the Little Andaman Division. There is no communication 
between them and either the Great Andaman or the Little 
Andaman. It is possible that they have been separated from 
the other Andamanese as long as those of the Little Andaman 
have been separated from those of the Great Andaman, and 
would therefore constitute a third separate division. The South 
Sentinel Island is uninhabited. 

The total area of the Andamans is estimated to be about! 
2500 square miles. This area is divided as follows : — 1 

Sq. miles. 
North Andaman, being the territory of the four tribes Aka- 

Cari, Aka-Kora, Aka-Bo, and Aka-Jeru .... 540 
Middle Andaman and Baratang, occupied by four tribes, 

Aka-Kede, Aka-Kol, Oko-Juwoi and A-Pucikwar . , 790 

The Archipelago, occupied by the Akar-Bale tribe . . 140 
The South Andaman, occupied by the Aka-Bea and the 

Jarawa 630 

North Sentinel Island 30 

Little Andaman 370 


It is not possible to give accurately the area occupied by 
each tribe, as the boundaries are difficult to discover. The 
Aka-Bea is in an exceptional position, as there was no definite 
boundary between them and the Jarawa. The two parties of 
natives lived in the same territory at enmity with each other. 
It would seem that the Aka-Bea kept on the whole more to the 
coast, while the Jarawa lived in the interior. 

^ In 1906 some Little Andaman visitors to Rutland Island captured a. Jarawa of 
that part. They told me that though he spoke differently from them, they could 
understand him fairly well. 


Leaving aside the Aka-Bea, the largest of the Great Andaman 
tribes, as regards area of territory, was the Aka-Kede, which 
possessed over 300 square miles. After this tribe in order of 
size come the A-Pucikwar, Aka-Jerii and Aka-Kura tribes, while 
the smaller ones are the Oko-Juwoi, Aka-Kol, Aka-Bo, Akar- 
Bale and Aka-Cari, the last being perhaps the smallest of all. 

In 1901 an enumeration of the natives of the Great 
Andaman was attempted in connection with the census of 
India. Such an enumeration was of course very difficult, and 
liable to considerable error. The results are given in the 
following table : — 

Name of Tribe 









1 Ota 


































































These figures are likely to be more accurate for the southern 
tribes (the last five on the list) than for the northern tribes. 
It is probable that, in the North Andaman, some of the persons 
enumerated were entered under the wrong tribe. For many 
years the officers of the Andamans did not know of the existence 
of the Aka-Kora and Aka-Bo tribes, and members of these 
tribes have fallen into the habit of describing themselves to 
Europeans as either Aka-Jeru or Aka-Cari. My own opinion 
is that the numbers given for the Aka-Jeru tribe are too large, 
while those of the Aka-Kcji'a and Aka-Bo, and perhaps also the 
Aka-Kede, are too small. 

For the census of 1901 an attempt was made to estimate 
the numbers of the Jqrawa and the natives of the Little 
Andaman, any attempt at enumeration being impossible. The 
estimate given was as follows : — 


Little Andaman . 
South Andaman Jarawa 
Rutland Island Jarawa 
North Sentinel Island. 





This estimate is not of any great value. As regards the 
Little Andaman, my own information would lead me to 
estimate their numbers at between 600 and 700, thus agreeing C 
with the estimate above. Concerning the North Sentinel Island 
nothing is known on which a satisfactory estimate could be 
based. The figures for the Rutland Island Jarawa are certainly 
very much too high. In 1907 I spent some weeks on Rutland 
Island trying to get into touch with the Jarawa there. At that 
time there were certainly not more than 50 all told on the 
island. I was only able to discover one camp, and that had 
been deserted just before it was discovered, but had not con- 
tained a dozen persons. The Rutland Island Jarawa have been 
cut off from the other Jarawa by the spread of the convict 
Settlement since about 1885. The majority of the Jarawa now 
inhabit the interior and western coast of the South Andaman 
north of Port Blair. 

During the last fifty years the numbers of the AndamaneseT 
have been greatly diminished. This has been the result of the ? 
European occupation of the islands, and is chiefly due to new 
diseases that have been introduced amongst them. Syphilis * 
was introduced among the tribes of the South Andaman about '^ 
1870, and this has now spread among all the Great Andaman ) 
tribes (that is, excluding the hostile Jarawa). A large number ( 
of natives are infected, and the disease is responsible directly ( 
and indirectly for a considerable increase in the death-rate. In \ 
March, 1877, an epidemic of measles broke out among the \ 
Andamanese, introduced with a batch of convicts from Madras, ( 
and spread rapidly from one end of the Great Andaman to the ) 
other. In six weeks 51 out of 184 cases treated in hospital , 
proved fatal. It is almost certain that the proportion of deaths -' 
was much greater in the case of those, the vast majority, to whom ( 
no medical aid could be given. A writer on the Andamans^ has 

■* Portman, M. V., A History of Our Relations with the Andamanese, Calcutta, 

B. A. 2 


f estimated that the mortality from measles and its sequelae was 
^ one-half if not two-thirds of the whole population of the Great 
\ Andaman. Other diseases which were formerly unknown to the 
j islands seem also to have been introduced, including influenza. 
While the death-rate amongst the friendly Andamanese 
( has been enormously increased, the birth-rate has at the same 
> time fallen to almost nothing. This is evident from the pro- 
/ portion of adults to children in the population table given 
i above. In 1907, out of a total of about 500 natives whom 
I saw at different times, there were not more than a dozen 
"** children of less than five years old. A birth is a rare occur- 
rence, and of the children born very few survive infancy. 

This decrease of population has not as yet affected the 

Little Andaman. The natives of this island have had very 

I little contact with the Penal Settlement or with the tribes of 

the Great Andaman, and have thus escaped the diseases which 

are mainly responsible for the depopulation of the larger island. 

Several attempts have been made to estimate the former popu- 

;, lation of the Andamans. In the " Census Report " for 1901 the 

estimate given is 4800 for the whole group. Mr M. V. Portman 

has given an estimate of 8000. It seemed to me that one of 

* these is too small and the other too large. Judging from what it 

' is possible to learn about the habits of the natives, and the food 

supply available, I should estimate that the former population 

of the islands (in 1858) was about 5500^ An estimate for the 

I proportion of the different groups is as follows : — 

Estimated Density- 

former per square 

population. mile. 

North Andaman (four tribes) .... 1500 275 

Middle Andaman with Baratang and Ritchie's 

Archipelago 2250 2-5 

South Andaman (Aka-Bea and Jarawa) . . 1200 2'o 

Little Andaman and North Sentinel . • 700 I75 

Total . . 5650 2-25 

^ This estimate is based on what the Andamanese were able to tell me of the 
conditions under which they formerly lived. Of course such an estimate can only 
be of small value. I think it is more probable that I have underestimated the former 
population than that I have overestimated it. 


With regard to the comparative density per square mile of 
the different groups it may be pointed out that the reason for 
the smaller density of the South Andaman is the fact that the 
Aka-Bea and Jqrawa were living there at war with one another, 
and the territory was therefore probably not so fully occupied 
as in other parts of the islands where boundaries between 
neighbouring tribes were well defined. The food supply of the 
Little Andaman does not seem to be so abundant as that of 
the Great Andaman in proportion to its area. It must be 
remembered that length of coast-line is of more importance 
to the Andamanese than the actual area of their country. The 
natives of the Little Andaman are not able to harpoon turtle 
and large fish, which constitute an important element of the 
food supply of the tribes of the Great Andaman. 

If the figures of the above estimate be correct, it will be 
seen that the population of the North Andaman has been 
reduced in less than fifty years (i 858-1901) to about 27 per 
cent, of its former volume, while in the same period the 
population of the Middle Andaman and South Andaman has 
been reduced to about 18 per cent. As the tribes in the south 
were the first to come into contact with the Settlement, their 
numbers have diminished more rapidly than those of the 
northern tribes. It is probable that in another fifty years the 
natives of the Great Andaman tribes will be extinct. 

The diminution of population has combined with other" 
causes to alter considerably the mode of life of the islanders. 
What were formerly distinct and often hostile communities are 
now merged together. The different languages have become 
corrupt, and some tribes have adopted customs of other tribes 
and have abandoned their own. Most of the younger men and 
women of the friendly tribes of the Great Andaman now speak 
a little Hindustani (Urdu) in a somewhat corrupt form. The 
friendly natives are under the charge of an officer of the Settle- 
ment, known as the Officer in Charge of the Andamanese. 
A Home and Hospital are provided for them in Port Blair, 
and natives from all parts, even from the extreme north, go 
there either to be treated in the Hospital or to stay at the 
Home. During certain parts of the year some of the natives 

2 — 2 


are employed in collecting trepang (beche de mer) under the 
direction of petty officers, who are natives of India or Burma. 
The trepang, together with wild honey and shells collected by 
the Andamanese, is sold, and the money is devoted to the 
service of the Andamanese Department. There is also a grant 
of money from the Government of India, in return for which 
the Officer in Charge must, when necessary, provide Andamanese 
to track and capture any convicts who may run away from the 
Penal Settlement. The funds thus made available serve to 
provide the natives with blankets, cloth, iron tools and scrap 
iron, rice, sugar, tea and tobacco. The result of this system 
is that there is a free circulation of natives in all parts of the 
Great Andaman. Whereas, formerly, the natives kept carefully 
to their own part of the country, they now make long journeys, 
either in their own canoes, or in Government launches, and 
members of the northern tribes are to be found at Port Blair 
and elsewhere in the south, while men and women of the southern 
tribes are to be found engaged in collecting trepang in the north. 

The natives of the Little Andaman have as yet scarcely been 
affected by these changes. Within recent years, however, some 
of the natives of the northern part of the Little Andaman have 
been in the habit of making periodical visits to Rutland Island 
in their canoes, and occasionally come as far as Port Blair. 
Their chief reason for visiting the Settlement is to obtain iron 
for their arrows and adzes, but they have also begun to appre- 
ciate sugar and tobacco. 

The manners and customs of the Andaman Islanders have 
formed the subject of a number of writings. By far the most 
important of these is a work by Mr E. H, Man, who was for 
some years an officer of the Penal Settlement of Port Blair, and 
for four years of that time was in charge of the Andamanese 
Home. Mr Man made a special study of the language of the 
Aka-Bea tribe and compiled an extensive vocabulary, which, 
however, has never been published. His observations on the 
manners and customs of this tribe and others of the South 
Andaman were published in the Journal of the Anthropological 
Institute of the year 1882 (Volume Xll), and were reprinted in 
the form of a book On the Aboriginal Inhabitants of the 


Andaman Islands. As the reprint is difficult to obtain, the 
references to Mr Man's work in the chapters that follow are all 
to the pages of the Journal of the Anthropological Institute, 
Volume XII. 

Another writer on the Andamanese is Mr M. V. Portman, 
who was for some years an officer of the Andaman Commission, 
and was for a long time in charge of the Andamanese. His 
Manual of the Andamaiiese Languages, London, 1887, is full of 
errors and entirely unreliable, A later work, entitled Notes on 
the Languages of the Sotith Andaman GroiLp of Tribes, Calcutta, 
1 898, is of much greater value, and though not entirely free from 
errors, is on the whole useful and accurate. Mr Portman has 
also compiled A History of Our Relations with the Andamanese 
(2 volumes, Calcutta, 1899), which contains a mass of information 
on the subject with which it deals, but does not add very much 
to our knowledge of the Andamanese themselves. The British 
Museum possesses an excellent collection of photographs of the 
Andamanese taken by Mr Portman. 

A good general description of the islands and of their 
inhabitants by Colonel Sir Richard Temple, who was for 
many years Chief Commissioner of the Andaman and Nicobar 
Islands, is contained in Volume III of the Census of India, 
1 90 1, here referred to as "Census Report" 1901. 



In the present chapter we are to deal with the customs 
and institutions by which the natives of the Great Andaman 
regulate the conduct of persons one to another. At the outset 
it is necessary to get as clear an idea as possible of the 
structure of the Andamanese society. That structure, as will 
be shown, is extremely simple. 

What is really of interest to the ethnologist is the social 
organisation of these tribes as it existed before the European 
occupation of the islands. The changes that have taken place 
in recent years have been extensive, the most important being 
the great diminution in numbers and the merging together of 
what were formerly distinct and often hostile communities. It 
is fairly easy, however, to discover from the natives themselves 
what was the constitution of the society in former times, though 
there remain a few points about which no satisfactory informa- 
tion can be obtained. 

When the islands were first occupied by the British, before 
depopulation had affected their institutions, the natives of the 
Great Andaman were to be found living in small communities 
scattered over the islands, mostly on the coast, but some of 
them in the forest of the interior of the island. Each such 
community, which will be spoken of as a "local group," was 
independent and autonomous, leading its own life and regu- 
lating its own affairs. Each group had occasional relations 
with other neighbouring groups ; visitors might pass from one 
to another ; or the two groups might meet together for a few 
days and join in feasting and dancing. On the other hand 


there were often quarrels between neighbouring groups, which 
might result in a state of feud between them for many months. 
Between communities separated from one another by a distance 
of only 50 miles or even less there were no direct relations 
whatever. The members of one community kept to their own 
part of the country, only leaving it to visit their friends within 
a narrow radius. \ 

These local groups were united into what are here called 
tribes. A tribe consisted of a number of local groups all 
speaking what the natives themselves regard as one language, 
each tribe having its own language and its name. The tribe 
was of very little importance in regulating the social life, and 
was merely a loose aggregate of independent local groups. 

The local groups are further distinguished by the natives 
themselves as being of two kinds according as they lived on 
the coast or inland. This division was independent of that 
into tribes. Some tribes consisted of coast-dwellers only, while 
others included both coast-dwellers and forest-dwellers. 

Within the local group the only division was that into 
families. A family consists of a man and his wife and their 
unmarried children own or adopted. 

These were the only social divisions existing among the 
Andamanese, who were without any of those divisions known as 
" clans " which are characteristic of many primitive societies. 

The natives of the Great Andaman (leaving aside the 
Jqrawa, who by language and culture belong to the Little 
Andaman division of the race) are divided into ten tribes, 
each occupying a certain area of country. Each tribe consists 
of a number of persons who speak what is regarded by the 
natives themselves as one language. That the tribe is funda- 
mentally a linguistic group is shown by the tribal names. 
These are all formed from a stem with the prefix aka-, which 
prefix is used in the languages of the Great Andaman to 
convey a reference to the mouth and thereby to the function 
of speech. Thus in the Aka-Jeru language the stem poy means 
" a hole of any kind," and aka-poy means " the mouth," there 
being no other word for that part of the body. In the same 
language the stem -ar- meaning " to talk " can only be used 


with the prefix aka-, as ak'-ar-ka, "he says." The prefix 
which is characteristic of the tribal names, indicates, therefore, 
that these are really the names of languages. 

The meanings or derivations of some of the tribal names 
have not been ascertained with certainty. The name Aka- 
Cari is derived from the word cari meaning " salt water," and 
therefore means " the salt-water language." Similarly the name 
Aka-Jeru is derived from jeru, a species of Sterculia from which 
canoes are made. In the Northern languages the word ot-bo 
means " the back " of anything, and oy-kora means " the hand." 
It is possible that the names Aka-Bo and Aka-Kqra are derived 
from these stems (the ot- and the oy- being prefixes), but there 
is no evidence that they are associated with them in the minds 
of the natives of the present day. Among the Southern tribes 
the name Akar-Bale is derived from a word meaning "the 
other side " of a creek or strait, thus referring to their position 
in the Archipelago. The name A-Pticik-war (of which the 
Aka-Bea equivalent is Aka-Bojig-yab) means "those who speak 
our own language," from a stem piicik {Aka-Bea, bojig) which 
means "belonging to ourselves" as opposed to strangers of 
the same race. Mr Portman^ gives the following meanings of 
the other tribal names of the South and Middle Andaman, but 
the derivations are somewhat doubtful. 

Aka-Bea Fresh water. 

Okq-Ju%voi They cut patterns on their bows. 

Aka-Kol Bitter or salt taste. 

I may take this opportunity of pointing out two errors in the 
names of the tribes given in the "Census Report" of 1901. 
The name Aka-Cari is given as Aka-Chariar ; the stem -ar- 
means " to talk " and is not an essential part of the tribal name; 
Aka-Cari-ar-boin means " he talks the Cari language." The name 
Aka-Bo is given as Aka-Tabo\ fa-Bo means "I (am) Aka-Bo^' 
just as t'a-Jeni means " I (am) Aka-Jeru" the prefix aka- being 
contracted to a- after the personal pronoun /' = I or my. 

Although the natives themselves thus recognize and give 
names to ten distinct languages, all of them are closely related. 
There is, on the whole, not a great deal of difference between 

^ Notes on the Languages of the South Andaman Group of Tribes, p. 27. 


two neighbouring languages. A man of the Aka-Jeru tribe 
could understand without any great difficulty a man speaking 
Aka-Bo. On the other hand many of the languages included 
two or even more distinct dialects. In the Akar-Bale tribe 
there were two dialects, one in the southern half of the 
Archipelago, which was allied to Aka-Bea, and the other in 
the northern half, showing affinities with A-Pucikwar. Even 
in such a small tribe as the Aka-Cari it would seem that there 
were differences of dialect. Thus, even from the point of view 
of language, the tribe was not entirely homogeneous. 

Leaving aside the Aka-Bea, the average extent of territory 
occupied by a tribe was about 165 square miles. Of the nine 
tribes the largest, as regards area, was the Aka-Kede, with 
over 300 square miles, while the smallest was probably the 
Aka-Cari, with less than 100 square miles. Save in the case 
of the Akar-Bale tribe, which occupied the islands of Ritchie's 
Archipelago, it is difficult to find any marked geographical 
features that might be supposed to have determined the extent 
and the boundaries of the different tribes. 

The Aka-Bea tribe was in an abnormal position as there 
was no recognized boundary between them and the Jqrawa. 
Together, these two divisions of the Andamanese occupied an 
area of about 600 square miles. The Aka-Bea seem to have 
kept more to the coast while the Jqrawa occupied the interior 
of the South Andaman and Rutland Island. 

If the estimate previously given^ of the former population 
of the islands be correct, the nine tribes (leaving aside the 
Aka-Bea) would have formerly contained about 3750 persons 
of all ages. At the present time the four tribes of the 
North Andaman number altogether about 400, of whom 
about 100 or less are children. The other six tribes taken 
together (including the almost extinct Aka-Bea) number about 
200, of whom not more than 30 are children. Mr Man esti- 
mated the numbers of the Aka-Bea tribe (called by him 
Bojig-yiji-da) in 1882 at about 400, and supposes them to 
have numbered about 1000 in 1858. In 190 1 that tribe con- 
sisted of only 37 persons, 

^ Page 18 above. 


Besides the division into tribes, and independent of it, the 
Andamanese recognize another division into coast-dwellers and 
forest-dwellers. In the Aka-Bea language the coast-dwellers are 
called Ar-yoto, while the forest-dwellers are called Erem-taga. 
The difference between them is due solely to the difference 
of their food supply. The Ar-yoto obtain much of their food 
from the sea. They are expert in fishing and turtle hunting. 
They make canoes and use them not only for hunting but 
also for travelling from one camp to another. Some portion 
of their food they also obtain from the forest, edible roots and 
fruits and the flesh of the wild pig being the chief On the 
other hand the Erem-taga rely solely on the forest and the 
inland creeks for their food supply. Their only use for canoes 
is in the creeks. They are entirely ignorant of such matters 
as turtle or dugong hunting, but they are more at home 
than the coast-dwellers in the forest, and are generally more 
skilful at pig-hunting. The advantage certainly rests with the 
coast-dwellers, for they have both the sea and the forest to 
draw upon for their sustenance. 

Some tribes consist only of coast-dwellers, such as the Aka- 
Cari, the Akar-Bale and perhaps the Aka-Kol. On the other 
hand the Aka-Bo, although their territory includes a part of 
the west coast, are, by their occupations and mode of life, 
forest-dwellers, and the same seems to have been the case of 
the Oko-Jiiwoi. The A-Pucikwar, the Aka-Kede, the Aka-Jeru 
and perhaps also the Aka-Kora tribes contained both coast- 
dwellers and forest-dwellers. 

Each tribe formerly consisted of a number of independent 

I local groups. The local group, and not the tribe, was the 

land-owning group, each one owning or exercising hunting 

rights over a certain recognized area. At the present time, 

owing to the breakdown of the local organisation, through the 

settlement of the islands and the resulting decrease of popu- 

V lation, it is difficult to ascertain what area of country was 

Xoccupied by each of these local groups. In many cases it 

would seem that the boundaries between two neighbouring 

groups are not very clearly defined, there being portions of 

forest over which the members of both hunted when the 


groups were at peaces There is no doubt that in the more 
favourable localities, particularly on the coast, the country 
occupied by a single group was smaller than in places of less 
abundant food supply. It is probable that the forest-dwelling 
local groups occupied considerably larger areas in each case 
than the coast groups. Some of the coast-dwelling groups 
seem to have occupied areas of less than ten square miles. 

It is not easy to discover at this time exactly what number 
of persons would have been included in one local group. Mouat, 
who visited the islands in 1857-8, says of the natives, "They 
are rarely or never seen living alone, several of their little huts 
being raised in the same locality, where they dwell together 
in numbers varying between thirty and three hundreds" In 
another passage he states, " They are generally divided into 
small groups, the numbers of which vary considerably, some 
not containing more than ten individuals, while in others as 
many as two or three hundred may be found. The great 
majority of these groups of the natives consist on an average 
of from thirty to fifty men, women, and children, although 
sometimes as many as three hundred are found together^" It ' -. 
is probable that, if so small a party as ten were seen, they 
were a hunting party spending a day or a few days away 
from the main camp. On the other hand so large a number 
as three hundred could only be found together on the occasion 
of one of the periodical meetings of several local groups for / 
purposes of festivity. Mouat's statement that the groups con/ 
sisted on the average of from thirty to fifty persons, agrees 
very well with the statements of the natives themselves, and 
may be taken as being fairly accurate. Mr Man, writing in 
1882, speaks of the Andamanese as divided into communities 
" each consisting of from twenty to fifty individuals," and else- 
where says that "permanent encampments vary in size and 

^ A few small areas were not occupied at all, for example the greater part of 
Saddle Peak in the North Andaman, which is covered with dense jungle and is 
supposed by the natives to be the haunt of large and deadly snakes and of evil 

^ Mouat, F. J., Adventures and Researches among the Andaman Islanders, 
London, 1863, p. 313. 

^ Loc. cit. p. 300. 


consist of several huts, which in all are rarely inhabited b)' 
more than from fifty to eighty persons \" 

From the information that I was able to obtain from the 
natives themselves I came to the conclusion that an average 
local group consisted of from 40 to 50 persons of all ages, 
the average number of local groups to a tribe being about 10. 
This would give the average extent of country occupied by each 
local group as about 16 square miles, but some groups certainly 
had a larger territory than this and some had smaller. 

Mr M. V. Portman speaks of the tribes of the southern 
part of the Great Andaman as being divided into what he 
calls " septs," but he does not explain what he means by that 
term. He states that the Aka-Bea were divided into seven 
septs, the A-Pucikwar into four, the Akar-Bale into two, while 
the Aka-Kql and Oko-Juwoi had no real subdivisions^ What- 
ever Mr Portman may have meant by the term sept, it is clear 
that he did not use it to denote what is here called a local 
group, but some larger subdivision of the tribe. What these 
septs seem to have been are groups consisting each of four or 
five local groups having friendly relations with one another 
and meeting together occasionally at the festival gatherings 
to be described later in the present chapter. 

There were, strictly speaking, no distinctive names for the 
local groups. A local group might be denoted by a reference 
to the district that it occupied or to one of its chief camping 
places. Thus, in the Akar-Bale tribe, those occupying the 
island of Teb-juru were spoken of as Teb-juni-wa, the word 
wa meaning "people," and the inhabitants of the east coast 
of Havelock Island were similarly denoted as PiUuga-far- 
mugu-wa from the name of the district that they occupied. 
In the tribes of the North Andaman the word equivalent to 
iva of the South is koloko. Some of the local groups of the 
Aka-Bo tribe were distinguished as Teraut buliu koloko, Kelera 
huliu koloko, Teradikili buliu koloko etc., from the names of 
the creeks {bulhi) that they occupied. In the Aka-Cari tribe 
the local group occupying the island of Tqnmuket and the 

^ Joum. Anthrop. Inst. Vol. xii, pp. 107 and 108. 

^ Portman, Notes on the Lanpiciges of the South Andaman Group of THhcs, p. 23. 

Plate III 


A man of the North Andaman and his son. (The man's 
height is 1438 mm., 4 feet 8 inches) 

A married woman of the Great Andaman wearing belts of 
Pandanus leaf and ornaments of Dentalium shell 


adjoining mainland were called Tarotolo koloko. When a man 
was asked to what part of the country he belonged he would 
generally answer by mentioning one of the chief camping 
places of his local group. Thus a man of the Tarotolo koloko 
might say that he belonged to Laropidi, this being one of 
the chief camps of that country. A man of the Teratit buliu 
koloko might similarly say that he belonged to the village of 
Caicue. v 

A man or woman is generally regarded as belonging to^ 
the local group in the country of which he or she was born. 
There is nothing, however, to prevent a person from taking 
up his residence with any other local group if he so wishes, 
and if the members of that group are willing to welcome him. 
It would seem that there were a fair number of such cases in 
which a man or a woman left his or her own local group to 
join another. In particular, when two young people belonging 
to different groups got married they might fix their residence 
either with his or with her parents. 

The local group, as stated above, was characterised as the 
land-owning group. A man might hunt over the country 
of his own group at all times, but he might not hunt over 
the country of another group without the permission of the 
members of that group. Even at the present day, when the 
local organisation has largely broken down, some of these 
hunting rights are still observed. I noticed a case in which 
some of the men asked and obtained permission to hunt pig 
in a certain part from a man who was explained to be the 
owner of that part of the country, being one of the few sur- 
vivors of the local group to which it belonged. It would, in 
former times, have been an offence that might easily have led 
to a serious quarrel for the men of one group to hunt or fish 
in the country or the waters of another group without having 
been granted permission to do so. 

Within the territory of each local group there are a number 
of recognized camping places. During the greater part of every 
year the members of the local group would be found living 
together at one or other of these. Some of these camping- 
grounds have been in use for many centuries, as is shown by 


the heaps of refuse many feet deep, chiefly consisting of the 
shells of molluscs and the bones of animals. Such kitchen- 
middens, as they have been called, are to be found in numbers 
all around the coasts of the islands. 

In the case of the coast-dwelling communities the camping 
sites are always close to the sea-shore or to a creek, so that 
they can be reached by canoe. In the case of those dwelling 
inland this is of course not so. In any case one of the chief 
factors determining the choice of the site is the existence of 
a supply of fresh water. This is of extreme importance in the 
case of a site to be occupied during the dry season when 
fresh water becomes scarce. 
y Within their own territory the local group is what we may 
' speak of as semi-nomadic. The coast-dwellers rarely reside 
continuously at the same spot for more than a few months, but 
shift from one camp to another, moved by different causes. If 
a death occurs the camp is deserted for several months and a 
new one is occupied. A change of camp often takes place at 
a change of season, some spots presenting particular advantages, 
such as shelter from the prevailing wind, or better hunting or 
fishing, at certain times of the year. Another cause of the 
abandonment of a camp by the coast-dwellers is that all refuse 
is thrown away close to the camp, and after a few months 
the decaying animal matter thus accumulated renders the 
spot uninhabitable. The natives seem to find it easier to 
move their camp than to clear away their refuse. The truth 
is, perhaps, that they are so accustomed to change their camp 
from one spot to another, in order to make the best use of 
the natural resources available, that there is no necessity for 
them to take those sanitary measures that would be essential 
if they wished to remain for many months continuously at 
the same place. 

The forest-dwellers are less nomadic in their habits than 
the coast-dwellers. One of the reasons for this is that as they 
cannot convey their belongings from one place to another by 
canoe, but must carry them overland, the moving of a camp is 
a more tiresome business with them than it is with the coast- 
dwellers. During a great part of the year the forest-dwellers 

Plate V 

A man of the Akar=Bale tribe with South Andaman bow and 

arrows, wearing belt and necklace of netting and Dentalium 

shell. (Height 1494 mm., 4 feet 9 inches) 


were accustomed to remain at one camp, which was thus 
the chief camp of the group. In particular they would 
spend there the whole of the rainy season. During the cool 
and hot seasons they would leave the chief camp for a few 
months, leading during that time a more nomadic life, living 
in temporary hunting camps and paying visits to their friends 
in other groups. At the opening of the rainy season they 
would return once more to the main camp. 

The camps of the natives of the Great Andaman may be 
distinguished as being of three kinds. Of the first kind are 
what may be spoken of as permanent encampments. Certainly 
every group of the forest-dwellers, and probably every group 
of the coast-dwellers had its permanent encampment, which 
was, so to speak, the headquarters of the group. At this spot 
there would be erected either a communal hut, or a carefully 
built village. Communal huts have in recent times fallen into 
disuse, as the natives now wander about the islands much 
more freely than was their wont. I did not see a single one 
in the Great Andaman during my visit, though I was told of 
one that was falling to ruins in the interior of the Middle 
Andaman. One such communal hut was photographed in 1895 
by M. L. Lapicque, at a spot called Lekera-run-ta^. It was 
perhaps the last that the natives of the Great Andaman 
erected. What the communal hut was like it is possible to 
discover both from the statements of the natives and also 
from the fact that they are still to the present day used by 
the natives of the Little Andaman and by the Jarawa. The 
hut was roughly circular in form and might be as big as 
60 feet in diameter and 20 or 30 feet high at the centre. 
The shape was somewhat that of a beehive. Two concentric 
circles, one of tall posts near the centre and the other of 
shorter posts near the circumference, were connected by hori- 
zontal and sloping roof-timbers, and on these were laid and 
fastened a number of mats of palm-leaves. These mats 
reached, as a rule, as far as the ground, a small doorway 
being left on one side. 

Such communal huts, while still used in the Littfe Andaman 

^ The photograph is reproduced in Le Tour du Monde, 1895, p. 447. 


and by the Jarawa, and formerly used by the forest-dwellers of 
the Great Andaman, were apparently not often erected by the 
coast-dwellers of the larger island at the time the islands were 
occupied in 1858. Mr Man seems to have regarded them as 
being peculiarly characteristic of the Jqrawa and the natives 
of the Little Andaman \ There is evidence, however, that 
even the coast-dwellers formerly erected such huts, for in the 
Akar-Bale tribe there are several places with names such as 
Parity Bud and Golugma Bud, which show that communal 
huts existed there at some time. The word bud is used to 
denote a communal hut, as compared with a village, which is 
called baraij. 

A large communal hut took some little time to erect. The 
posts had to be cut and erected, this being the v/ork of the 
men, and the palm-leaves had to be collected and then made 
into mats by the women. Once the hut was built it would 
last for several years, and if it were in fairly constant use, 
particularly if it were not abandoned in the rains, it might 
be used, with a little occasional patching, for ten years or 
even more. 

Among the coast-dwellers it was more usual to erect at 
the headquarters a semi-permanent village. A portion of 
such a village is shown in the photographs reproduced in 
Plates VI and Vll. 

The village occupied a small clearing in the forest close 
to the sea-shore at a place called Mqi-lepto in the country of 
the Akar-Bale tribe. A spring or soak close to the village 
provided the fresh water. The site is a favourite one as it 
is well sheltered, and is within convenient distance of good 
fishing and turtle hunting grounds. It was formerly one of 
the chief camping places of the local group known as the 
Boroin wa (Hill people). 

The village was composed of eight huts, ranged round a 
central open space, and all of them facing inwards towards 
the centre. This open space is kept clear and clean for 
dancing, and is simply the village dancing ground. Each of 
the single huts was occupied by a family group, consisting of 
^ See /iJ«^«. Anthrop. Inst. Vol. xn, p. 71. 

Plati<: Vr 


a man and his wife with their children and dependants. One 
hut was occupied by an old widower and a bachelor. 

The way the huts are built can be seen in the photographs. 
In the simplest form the hut consists of a sloping roof made 
of palm-leaves, erected on four posts, two taller ones at the 
front and two short ones at the back. A hut of this kind is 
shown in Plate VII. If more shelter is required a second roof 
is added in such a way that the top of one overhangs the top 
of the other. In some cases a third roof may be added on 
one side. In Plates VI and Vll two mats of palm-leaf are 
shown in the course of construction, lying on the ground. 

Huts such as these, in which the leaves are first made into 
a mat which is then attached to the rafters, will last for some 
time. Even if the village be deserted for several weeks, at any 
rate in the dry weather, very little work will be needed to make 
it habitable again when the occupants return to it. 

A second kind of camp was made when the natives did not 
intend to stay more than two to three months, Such camps 
were erected by the forest folk during the dry season, or at any 
time when they were compelled to leave their chief camp through 
the death there of one of their number. Such a temporary camp 
is always put up in the form of a village, and never as a 
communal hut. The huts are similar to those already described, 
but are made more carelessly. The thatching leaves, instead 
of being made into mats, are simply tied in bundles on to the 
rafters. A hut of this kind will last quite well for three months 
or so and it can be built very rapidly at any place where there 
is a sufficient supply of thatching leaves. At the present 
day the natives rarely build a permanent camp for themselves, 
but are contented with temporary camps of the kind here 

A third kind of camp remains to be briefly mentioned, which 
we may call the hunting camp. A hunting party (which may 
include women as well as men) spending a few days away from 
one of the main camps will erect for themselves a few huts 
or shelters consisting of nothing more than a simple lean-to 
of leaves. 

Caves or rock shelters suitable for human occupation are 
B. A. 3 


almost unknown in the Andamans. In the Archipelago there are 
one or two small rock shelters that are occasionally used by 
a hunting party away from home for a night. I was told by the 
natives that on one of the islands off the west coast of the North 
Andaman there is a rock shelter of a fair size that was formerly 
used as one of their chief camps. 

The following figure will give an idea of the Andamanese 
village and its arrangement. In hunting camps which are 
intended only to be occupied for a few days or a few weeks, this 
arrangement is not observed, but the huts or shelters are placed 

^ m f-T] 




Plan of Andamanese Village 

a. Huts of married people. 

6. Bachelors' hut. 

c. Public cooking place. 

d. Dancing ground. 

so as to give shelter from the prevailing wind with no particular 
regard to the respective position of the different units. 

The constitution of the local group is illustrated by the 
arrangement of the village. The whole village consists of a 
number of separate huts, each hut occupied by a family. A 
family consists of a man and his wife and such of their children 
own or adopted as are not of an age to be independent. Besides 
the families each group necessarily contains a small number of 
unmarried men and widowers and some unmarried girls and 
widows. The unmarried men and widowers without children 
occupy a separate hut (or huts) which we may speak of as 
the bachelors' hut. Mr Man states that the spinsters (i.e., the 

Pj.ate vn 













unmarried women who are of marriageable age) and widows 
occupy a hut of their own similarly to the bachelors ^ In the 
camps that I visited I did not find any such spinsters' hut. 
What unmarried females there were, I found attached to one 
or other of the families of the village, each one living in the 
hut of some married relative, generally the parent or foster- 

All the huts face inwards towards an open space which is 
the dancing ground of the village, and, except in exposed 
situations, are generally entirely open in front. At some con- 
venient spot on one side of the dancing ground is to be found 
the communal cooking place of the village. This is generally 
close to the bachelors' hut, as it is the bachelors who attend 
to such cooking as is carried on there. Besides the public 
cooking place each family has its own fireplace in its own hut, on 
which a fire is kept continually alight. In the village two or 
more families may build their huts adjoining one another in such 
a way that they become for all practical purposes one hut, of 
which each family retains its own special portion. Two brothers 
will thus often make a sort of common household. 

The communal hut, in the way in which it is arranged, 
and even in the way in which it is built, is really a village with 
all the huts drawn together so that each one is joined to the one 
next to it and the roofs meet in the middle. In the centre of 
the hut there is an open space corresponding to the dancing 
ground of the village. It is even used as a dancing ground, 
though for this purpose it is somewhat small. It is the public 
part of the hut. Around this are arranged the different families, 
each occupying its own special portion of the hut, which is 
marked off by means of short lengths of wood laid on the floor. 
The public cooking place is sometimes inside the hut, and there 
is the space marked off for the unmarried men. The advantage 
of the communal hut is that it affords a better protection from 
the weather ; its disadvantage is that it leaves almost no room 
for dancing. 

Thus it may be seen that the arrangement of the camp shows 

^ Man, op. cit. p. 108. 


very plainly the constitution of a local group, consisting as it 
does of a few families. Each group seems to have contained, on 
an average, about ten families, with a few unmarried males and 

The Andaman Islanders depend for their subsistence entirely 
on the natural products of the sea and the forest. From the 
sea they obtain dugong, turtle (both green and hawksbill), 
an enormous variety of different sorts of fish, crustaceans (crabs, 
crayfish and prawns) and molluscs. Fish and crabs are also 
to be found in the salt-water creeks which in many places 
penetrate inland for some miles. From the forest they obtain 
the flesh of the wild pig, wild honey, and a large number of 
vegetable foods — roots, fruits, and seeds. 

The life of the forest folk is more simple and uniform than 
that of the coast people and we may therefore consider it first. 
During the rainy season, which lasts from the middle of May to 
the end of September, the local group lives at its headquarters 
camp, which, as we have seen, formerly often took the form of a 
communal hut. During this season animal food is plentiful, as the 
jungle animals are in good condition ; on the other hand there 
is not much vegetable food to be obtained. The following brief 
account will give an idea of how the day is spent in such a camp 
at that time of year. Some time after sunrise the camp begins 
to be astir. The various members of the community make a 
meal of any food that may have been saved from the day before. 
The men start off for the day's hunting. At the present time 
dogs are used for pig-hunting. These dogs were obtained in the 
first instance from the Settlement of Port Blair, and their use in 
pig-hunting was learnt from the Burmese convicts. Nowadays 
every married man has at least one dog^ Before the dogs were 
obtained, hunting was a pursuit requiring a great deal more skill 
than it does at present. A hunting party consists of from two 
to five men. Each man carries his bow and two or three pig 
arrows, and one of the party carries a smouldering fire-brand. 
They make their way through the jungle until they find the 
fresh tracks of a pig, or follow up some of the usual pig runs 

^ In the North Andaman the times before the Settlement are spoken of as the 
time when there were no dogs, Bibi poiye=^' Dog not." 

Plate VIII 

4. '■' I 

5, ■_ a 

-1; t , _. 

\ 1 ( 



1 rt 








'■ ■ i '' 









: \ 











until they come upon the animal feeding. In former days much 
skill was required to creep noiselessly through the jungle until 
they were sufficiently near either to discharge an arrow, or, if 
the jungle were more open, to rush in upon the animal shouting 
and shoot it before it could escape. At the present day it is the 
dogs that scent out the pig and bring it to bay, when the 
natives shoot it with their arrows. 

When a pig has been killed it may be tied up and carried to 
the camp on the shoulders of one of the hunters, or a fire may 
be lighted then and there and the pig eviscerated and roasted. 
A cut is made in the abdomen and the viscera removed. The 
cavity is filled with leaves, the joints of the legs are half severed 
and the carcase is placed on the fire and turned over and shifted 
until every part is evenly roasted. It is then removed from the 
fire, the burnt skin is scraped clean and the meat is cut up. 
Meanwhile the intestines or some of the internal organs are 
cooked and eaten by the hunters. The meat is tied up in leaves 
and is carried to the camp. If the pig be carried home whole 
the process of roasting it and cutting it up is performed in 
exactly the same way at the public cooking place of the camp, 
the meat being distributed only after it has been thus partially 

If the hunting party should come across a civet cat 
{P aradoxurus) or a monitor lizard they would endeavour to kill 
its but the main object of every hunting party is to obtain pork. 
Snakes and even rats are killed and eaten. Birds, though 
plentiful in the islands, are not often obtained, for the density of 
the jungle and the height of the trees in which the birds conceal 
themselves, make it very difficult for the natives to shoot them 
with their bows and arrows. A man does not care to risk 
the loss of his arrow in a chance shot at a bird. The Anda- 
manese do not trap either birds or animals, though some of 
the birds, particularly the rail, might be very easily caught in 

As the hunting party traverses the forest they may come 
across roots or fruits or seeds, or wild honey, and these are 
collected and carried home. In the rainy season only small 
^ They are only eaten in the rainy season. 


combs of black honey are to be founds and these are generally 
consumed by the hunters on the spot. 

The provision of the vegetable food of the community is the 
work of the women, who must also supply the camp with 
firewood and water. While the men are away hunting the 
women, attended by the children, cut and carry the firewood, 
and either remain in the camp making baskets or nets or other 
objects, or else go into the forest to look for fruits and seeds. 
Thus by midday the camp may be quite deserted, save perhaps 
for one or two old men and women, and a few of the children. 

In the afternoon the women return with what food they have 
obtained and then the men come in with their provision. The 
camp, unless the hunters have been unsuccessful, is then busy 
with the preparation of the evening meal, which is the chief meal 
of the day. If a pig has been brought home whole it is cooked 
at the public cooking place and is then cut up. The meat 
is distributed amongst the members of the community and the 
woman of each family then proceeds to cook the family meal. 
The pork, after it has been roasted and cut up, is further cooked 
by being boiled. The family meal is prepared at the fire that 
each family has in its hut. The meal is a family one, partaken 
by a man and his wife and children. The bachelors cook and 
eat their own meal, and the unmarried women also eat by 

After the meal is over, darkness having by this time fallen, the 
men may spend an hour or two in dancing to the accompaniment 
of a song sung by one of them with the help of a chorus of women. 
In that case they would probably eat another meal after the 
dance was over. Another favourite amusement for the evening 
is what may be called " yarning." A man sits down with a few 
listeners and tells them, with few words, and with many dramatic 
gestures, how he killed a pig. The same man may go on with 
tale after tale, till, by the time he finishes he has killed twenty or 
thirty pigs. Finally the whole camp retires to rest and nothing 

^ There are two kinds of wild bee in the Andamans. A small species makes 
black honeycombs in hollow trees, and these may be found at any time of the year. 
A larger species of bee builds white combs suspended from the underside of branches 
in tall trees. Such combs are found in abundance only in the hot season, and not at 
all in the middle of the rainy season. 


is to be seen but the dim light of the little fires burning in each 
hut or in each of the family quarters. 

On a day when there is plenty of food left from the day 
before, or on a day of stormy weather even when food is not too 
plentiful, the men may remain in camp instead of going hunting. 
They busy themselves with making weapons and implements, 
such as bows, arrows, adzes, etc. 

On occasions when game is not very plentiful a party of 
hunters may stay away from the camp for a few days, not 
returning till they have been successful in obtaining a fair 
supply of food. The women and children and old men, with 
perhaps a few of the able bodied men also, remain at home and 
provide for themselves as well as they can, the women devoting 
their time to collecting what vegetable foods are in season. 

At the end of the rainy season there comes a brief period 
of unsettled weather, called by the natives of the North Andaman 
Kimil, and by those of the South, Gumul. During this season 
some of the vegetable foods begin to be available, though not in 
any quantities. At this time of the year the natives are able to 
obtain and feast upon what they regard as great delicacies, 
the larvae of the cicada and of the great capricornis beetle. 
The cool season, when fruits and roots are plentiful, begins at the 
end of November. The forest dwellers leave their main encamp- 
ment during this season. Some of them go off to pay visits 
to their friends of other local groups. Such visits may last two 
or three months. Those who remain occupy temporary camps 
in convenient places. The men join the women in looking for 
roots and fruits, and do not spend so much of their time in 
hunting. Some of the men visit the main camp at intervals of a 
few days to see that it is all right. As the cool season gives 
way to the hot season (March to May) honey begins to be 
plentiful. At that time hunting for pig is almost abandoned. 
The pigs are in poor condition, and even when one is killed it is 
often left in the jungle by the natives as not being good enough 
to eat. On the other hand everyone is busy collecting honey. 
This is work in which both men and women join, though it is 
the men who climb up the trees and cut down the honeycomb. 
The natives have no means of keeping the honey for more than 


a very short time, as it rapidly ferments. While it is plentiful 
they almost live on it, supplementing it with roots and fruits and 
with fish, if they are near a creek. Towards the end of the 
hot season the fruit of the Artocarpiis chaplasha, which is a 
favourite food of the natives, becomes ripe. The men and 
women, at this time, spend much of their time collecting the 
fruit. When it is collected the fruit is broken open and each of 
the seeds is sucked to obtain the juicy pulp or aril with which it 
is surrounded, and which has a very pleasant taste. The seeds are 
then partly boiled and are buried in the ground to remain there 
for a few weeks, when they will be dug up again and cooked and 
eaten. Any natives who may have been away from home on 
a visit, return before the Artocarpus comes into fruit in order 
to take their share in collecting it and providing a supply of the 
seeds for consumption in the rainy season. The natives then 
return to the headquarters camp and make any necessary repairs 
to the hut in preparation for the rainy season, which begins 
about the middle of May. 

The coast-dwellers are not quite so much influenced by the 
seasons as the forest-dwellers. They can fish and collect 
molluscs all the year round. In the rainy season they divide 
their time between hunting pig in the forest and fishing or turtle 
hunting. They do not need, however, to remain at the same 
camp during the whole of the rainy season, but after a month or 
two at one place can move to what they hope to find better 
hunting grounds. During the cool and hot seasons they pay 
visits to one another. In the fine weather the men often go off 
on turtle-hunting expeditions for several days, leaving the women 
and children and older men in the village, where they provide 
for themselves with vegetable food and with fish and molluscs 
from the reefs. 

It is during the fine weather that there take place the 
meetings of two or more local groups that are an important 
feature of the social life of the Andaman Islanders. These 
meetings will be described later in the present chapter. 

Besides their food, which they must find from day to day, the 
natives have need of nothing save their weapons and implements. 
Of these each person makes his own, each man making his 


own bow, arrows, adze, etc., while the wife makes her baskets, 
nets and so on. 

The economic life of the local group, though in effect it 
approaches to a sort of communism, is yet based on the notion t 
of private property. Land is the only thing that is owned in 
common. The hunting grounds of a local group belong to the 
whole group, and all the members have an equal right to hunt 
over any part of it. There exists, however, a certain private 
ownership of trees. A man of one of the local groups of the 
coast may notice in the jungle a tree suitable for a canoe. He 
will tell the others that he has noticed such a tree, describing 
it and its whereabouts. Thenceforward that tree is regarded as 
his property, and even if some years should elapse, and he has 
made no use of it, yet another man would not cut it down 
without first asking the owner to give him the tree. In a similar 
way certain men claim to possess certain Artocarpus trees, 
though how the ownership in these cases had arisen I was unable 
to determine. No one would pick the fruit off such a tree 
without the permission of the owner, and having received 
permission and gathered the fruit he would give some part of 
it to the owner of the tree. 

A pig belongs to the man whose arrow first strikes it, though 
if the arrow merely glanced off and did not remain in the wound / 
it would not give any claim to ownership. A turtle or a dugong 
or big fish belongs to the man who throws the harpoon with 
which it is taken. A honeycomb belongs to the man who 
climbs the tree and cuts it down. The fish that a man shoots 
belong to him, and to a woman belong the roots she digs up, the 
seeds that she collects, the fish or prawns that she takes in 
her net or the molluscs that she brings from the reefs. Any 
weapon that a man makes belongs to him alone to do what 
he pleases with, and anything that a woman makes is her own 
property. A man is not free to dispose of the personal property 
of his wife without her permission. 

In the village each family erects and keeps in repair its own 
hut, and the wife provides the hut with the firewood and water 
needed. In the case of a communal hut it would seem that this 
is really an example of a possession common to the whole group. 


This is so, however, only in appearance. The hut is built by all 
the different families, but each family is regarded as owning 
a certain portion of the hut when it is finished, and it is the 
family that keeps this part of the hut in repair. 

A canoe is cut by a number of men together. From the 
outset, however, it is the property of one man, who selects 
the tree and superintends the operation of cutting it into shape. 
He is always one of the older men, and he enlists the services of 
the younger men to help him. When finished the canoe is his 
property, and he can do with it what he pleases, giving it away, 
if he wishes, and no one has any share of ownership in a canoe 
on the ground that he helped to make it. 

/ While all portable property is thus owned by individuals, the 
Andamanese have customs which result in an approach to com- 
munism. One of these is the custom of constantly exchanging 
presents with one another. When two friends meet who have 
not seen each other for some time, one of the first things they 
do is to exchange presents with one another. Even in the 
ordinary everyday life of the village there is a constant giving 
and receiving of presents. A younger man or woman may give 
some article to an older one without expecting or receiving any 
return, but between equals a person who gives a present always 
expects that he will receive something of equal value in exchange. 
At the meetings that take place between neighbouring local 
groups the exchange of presents is of great importance. Each 
of the visitors brings with him a number of articles that he 
distributes amongst the members of the group that he visits. 
When the visitors depart they are loaded with presents received 
from their hosts. It requires a good deal of tact on the part 
of everyone concerned to avoid the unpleasantness that may 
arise if a man thinks that he has not received things as valuable 
as he has given, or if he fancies that he has not received quite the 
same amount of attention as has been accorded to others. 

It is considered a breach of good manners ever to refuse 
the request of another. Thus if a man be asked by another 
to give him anything that he may possess, he will immediately 
do so. If the two men are equals a return of about the same 
value will have to be made. As between an older married man 


and a bachelor or a young married man, however, the younger 
would not make any request of such a nature, and if the older 
man asked the younger for anything the latter would give it 
without always expecting a return. 

Almost every object that the Andamanese possess is thus 
constantly changing hands. Even canoes may be given away, 
but it is more usual for these to be lent by the owner to his 

It has been stated above that all food is private property and 
belongs to the man or woman who has obtained it. Every one 
who has food is expected, however, to give to those who have 
none. An older married man will reserve for himself sufficient 
for his family, and will then give the rest to his friends. A 
younger man is expected to give away the best of what he gets 
to the older men. This is particularly the case with the bachelors. 
Should a young unmarried man kill a pig he must be content to 
see it distributed by one of the older men, all the best parts 
going to the seniors, while he and his companions must be 
satisfied with the inferior parts. The result of these customs 
is that practically all the food obtained is evenly distributed 
through the whole camp, the only inequality being that the 
younger men do not fare so well as their elders. Generosity is 
esteemed by the Andaman Islanders one of the highest of virtues 
and is unremittingly practised by the majority of them. / 

Within the local group there is no such thing as a division' of 
labour save as between the two sexes. In the coastal groups 
every man is expected to be able to hunt pig, to harpoon turtle 
and to catch fish, and also to cut a canoe, to make bows and 
arrows and all the other objects that are made by men. It 
happens that some men are more skilful in certain pursuits than 
in others. A skilful turtle-hunter, for example, may be an 
indifferent pig-hunter, and such a man will naturally prefer to 
devote himself to the pursuit in which he appears to most 

The division of labour between the sexes is fairly clearly 
marked. A man hunts and fishes, using the bow and arrow and 
the harpoon ; he makes his own bows and arrows, his adze and 
knife, cuts canoes and makes rope for harpoon lines. A woman 


collects fruits and digs up roots with her digging stick ; she 
catches prawns and crabs and small fish with her small fishing 
net ; she provides the firewood and the water of the family and 
does the cooking (i.e. the family cooking, but not the common 
cooking, which is entirely done by men) ; she makes all such 
-objects as baskets, nets of thread, and personal ornaments either 
for herself or her husband. 

There is no organised government in an Andamanese village. 
The affairs of the community are regulated entirely by the older 
men and women. The younger members of the community are 
brought up to pay respect to their elders and to submit to them 
in many ways. It has already been shown how, in the distribu- 
tion of food, the elders get the best share. When it is a question 
of shifting camp to some better hunting ground the opinion of 
the older men would weigh against that of the younger if they 
disagreed. It must not be thought, however, that the older men 
are tyrannical or selfish. I only once heard a young man 
complain of the older men getting so much the best of every- 
thing. The respect for seniority is kept alive partly by tradition 
and partly by the fact that the older men have had a greater 
experience than the younger. It could probably not be 
maintained if it regularly gave rise to any tyrannical treatment 
of the younger by the elder. 

The respect for seniors is shown in the existence of special 
terms of address which men and women use when speaking 
to their elders. In the languages of the North Andaman there 
are two such terms, Mai or Maia, applied to men, with a meaning 
equivalent to " Sir," and Mimi, applied to women. These words 
may be used either alone or prefixed to the personal name of 
the person addressed. A younger man speaking to an older one 
whose name was Bora would address him either as Mai (Sir), or 
as Maia Bora (Sir Bora). 

In the tribes of the South Andaman there are exactly similar 
terms. In the Aka-Bea tribe Maia or Maiola is used in address- 
ing men and Cana or Canola in speaking to women. In Akar- 
Bale the equivalent terms are Da and In. Besides these terms 
there is in these tribes another, Mam, Mama or Mamola, which 
may be used in speaking to either men or women, and which 


implies a higher degree of respect than Maia or Cana. In these 
tribes also there is a special way of showing respect by adding 
the suffix -la to the name of the person addressed, as Bia, BialUy 
Woico, Woico-la, etc. 

In the legends of the Andamanese these titles are nearly 
always prefixed to the names of the legendary ancestors, as 
Alaia jutpu and Mimi Bilikii in Aka-Jeru, or Da Dukii and 
In Bain in Akar-Bale. The moon is similarly spoken of as 
Sir Moon {Maia Ogar in Aka-Bea) and the sun as Lady Sun 
{Cana Bodo). 

Besides the respect for seniority there is another important 
factor in the regulation of the social hfe, namely the respect for 
certain personal qualities. These qualities are skill in hunting 
and in warfare, generosity and kindness, and freedom from 
bad temper. A man possessing them inevitably acquires a 
position of influence in the community. — 'His opinion on any 
subject carries more weight than that of another even older man. 
The younger men attach themselves to him, are anxious to 
please him by giving him any presents that they can, or by 
helping him in such work as cutting a canoe, and to join him in 
hunting parties or turtle expeditions. In each local group there 
was usually to be found one man who thus by his influence could 
control and direct others. Amongst the chief men of several 
friendly local groups it would generally happen that one of 
them, by reason of his personal qualities, would attain to a 
position of higher rank than the others. Younger men would be 
desirous of joining the local group to which he belonged. He 
would find himself popular and respected at the annual meetings 
of the different groups, and his influence would thus spread 
beyond the narrow limits of his own small community. 

There was no special word to denote such men and dis- 
tinguish them from others. In the languages of the North 
Andaman they were spoken of as er-kiiro — " big." 

Such men might perhaps be spoken of as " chiefs," but the 
term is somewhat misleading, as it makes us think of the 
organised chieftainship of other savage races. 

The above statement is not quite in agreement with what 
has been written by Mr Man on the same subject, and what he 


says is therefore reproduced here. " Their domestic policy may 
be described as a communism modified by the authority, more or 
less nominal, of the chief The head chief of a tribe is called 
inaia igla, and the elders, or sub-chiefs, i.e. those in authority 
over each community, consisting of from 20 to 50 individuals, 
maiola. The head chief, who usually resides at a permanent 
encampment, has authority over all the sub-chiefs, but his power, 
like theirs, is very limited. It is exercised mainly in organising 
meetings between the various communities belonging to his tribe, 
and in exerting influence in all questions affecting the welfare of 
his followers. It is the chief alone, as may be supposed, who 
directs the movements of a party while on hunting and fishing 
expeditions, or when migrating. It is usually through his 
intervention that disputes are settled, but he possesses no power 
to punish or enforce obedience to his wishes, it being left to 
all alike to take the law into their own hands when aggrieved. 
The aryoto and ereintaga in each tribe have their own head 
chief, who are independent the one of the other. As might 
be assumed from the results of observations made of other 
savage races, whose sole or chief occupation consists in hunting 
or fishing, the power of the chiefs is very limited, and not 
necessarily hereditary, though, in the event of a grown-up 
son being left who was qualified for the post, he would, in most 
instances, be selected to succeed his father in preference to 
any other individual of equal efficiency. At the death of a 
chief there is no difficulty in appointing a successor, there being 
always at least one who is considered his deputy or right-hand 
man. As they are usually, on these occasions, unanimous in 
their choice, no formal election takes place ; however, should any 
be found to dissent, the question is decided by the wishes of the 
majority, it being always open to malcontents to transfer their 
allegiance to another chief, since there is no such thing as forced 
submission to the authority of one who is not a general favourite. 
Social status being dependent not merely on the accident of 
relationship, but on skill in hunting, fishing, etc., and on a 
reputation for generosity and hospitality, the chiefs and elders 
are almost invariably superior in every respect to the rest. They 
and their wives are at liberty to enjoy immunity from the 


drudgery incidental to their mode of life, all such acts being 
voluntarily performed for them by the young unmarried persons 
living under their headship^" 

Where Mr Man speaks of the *' authority " of the chiefs 
it would be better to speak of " influence." Of authority the . 
leading men have little or none, but of influence they have a 
good deal. Should any one venture to oppose a popular chief 
he would find the majority of the natives, including many of his 
friends, siding against him. The words " chief" and " authority " 
seem to imply some sort of organised rule and procedure, and of 
this there is nothing in the Andamans. Mr Man also implies 
that in each tribe there is always one recognized headman, but 
in reality each tribe may possess two or three leading men in 
different parts of the country, each with his own following. 
In any case a man's influence is largely confined to his own local 
group, for it is only at the annual meetings that the men of other 
groups come in contact with him. 

The early officers of the Andamanese Homes (before the 
time of Mr Man) established a system of chieftainship in the 
islands by selecting a few of the more trustworthy and intelligent 
men, whom they dignified with the title of raja, and who acted 
as the intermediaries between the Officer in Charge of the 
Andamanese and the natives. This system has been continued 
to the present day, and the natives have adopted the title raja 
for these men, having themselves no word for a chief Where a 
man is selected who is already respected and esteemed by the 
natives his influence is considerably increased through the 
position thus assigned to him. The natives themselves do not 
recognize that he has any authority over them, but if he be a 
man of generosity and tact, the majority will always support 
him, and his advice in any matters of moment will be readily 

Women may occupy a position of influence similar to that of 
the men. The wife of a leading man generally exercises the 
same sort of influence over the women as her husband does over 
the men. A woman, however, would not exercise any influence 
over the men in matters connected with hunting. They do have 

^ Man, in Journ. Anthrop. Inst. Vol. xii, p. io8. 


a good deal of influence in connection with quarrels either of 
individuals or of local groups. 
y There are certain men, and possibly sometimes women, who 
have an influence over their fellows owing to their being credited 
with the possession of supernatural powers. These men, called 
in Aka-Jeru oko-jumu (literally " one who speaks from dreams "), 
/ will be described in a later chapter. As they are believed to 
have command over the powers that produce and cure sickness 
everyone tries to be on good terms with them, avoiding giving 
them offence in any way, and seeking their favour by presents of 
food or other things. It sometimes happens that a chief (the 
leading man of a local group) is at the same time a medicine-man 
or oko-Jumii, but the two positions are entirely distinct and 
I separate, and a man may be a medicine-man who possesses none 
of the qualities that are necessary for a head man. ^ O? 

There does not appear to have been in the Andamans any 
such thing as the punishment of crime. We may distinguish 
two kinds of anti-social actions which are regarded by the 
natives as being wrong. The first kind are those actions which 
injure in some way a private individual. The second are those, 
which, while they do not injure any particular person, are yet 
regarded with disapproval by the society in general. 

Amongst the anti-social actions of the first kind are murder, 
or wounding, theft and adultery, and wilful damage of the 
property of another. 

No case of one Andamanese killing another has occurred in 
recent years. Quarrels sometimes occur between two men of 
the same camp. A good deal of hard swearing goes on, and 
sometimes one of the men will work himself up to a high pitch 
of anger, in which he may seize his bow and discharge an arrow 
near to the one who has offended him, or may vent his ill-temper 
by destroying any property that he can lay his hands on, 
including not only that of his enemy but also that of other 
persons and even his own. At such a display of anger the 
women and children flee into the jungle in terror, and if the 
angry man be at all a formidable person the men occasionally 
do the same. It apparently requires more courage than the 
natives usually possess to endeavour to allay such a storm of 


anger. Yet I found that the slightest show of authority would | 
immediately bring such a scene to an end. A man of influence / 
in his village was probably generally equal to the task of keeping' 
order and preventing any serious damage from taking place. It 
was probably rare for a man so far to give way to his anger 
as to kill his opponent. 

Such murders did, however, occasionally take placed The 
murderer would, as a rule, leave the camp and hide himself 
in the jungle, where he might be joined by such of his friends 
as were ready to take his part. It was left to the relatives and / 
friends of the dead man to exact vengeance if they wished \^ 
and if they could. If the murderer was a man who was much ^ 
feared it is probable that he would escape. In any case the 
anger of the Andamanese is short-lived, and if for a few months 
he could keep out of the way of those who might seek revenge, 
it is probable that at the end of that time he would find their 
anger cooled. 

A man who is liable to outbursts of violent anger is feared 
by his fellows, and unless he has other counterbalancing qualities, 
he is never likely to become popular. He is treated with outward 
respect, for every one is afraid of offending him, but he never 
acquires the esteem of others. There is a special nickname, 
Tarenjek, in the North Andaman, to denote such a man^. 

Quarrels were more likely to occur at the meetings of 
different local groups that took place in the fine weather, and 
such quarrels might occasionally end in the murder of some one. 
In such a case the quarrel would be taken up by the group 

^ The natives of the North Andaman were able to tell me of a few cases of murder 
which had occurred within the. memory of those still living. 

Mr Portman in his History of Our Relations with the Andat?iajtese records a certain 
number of murders which occurred while he was in charge of the Andamanese. One 
man, who had been imprisoned at Port Blair for murder, committed another soon 
after his release and was hanged. Since that date there has been no case of murder 
among the Great Andaman tribes. This is perhaps in part due to the punishment 
with which they are now threatened by the Government, but another cause is probably 
the breakdown of the old social organisation which has in this respect rather improved 
their morals than the opposite. 

^ The nickname is applied, however, not only to those who deserve it by their 
character, but also to others ; for instance, one man was called Tarenjek because his 
maternal uncle was a man of violent temper. 

B. A. A 


of the murdered man, and a feud would be set up between them 
and the local group to which the murderer belonged. Such was 
one of the common causes of origin of the petty warfare that 
formerly existed in the Andamans, which will be referred to 
later in the present chapter. 

Cases of theft seem to have been rare. It was left to the 
aggrieved person to take vengeance upon the thief, but if he 
killed him or seriously wounded him he would have to expect 
the possible vengeance of the relatives and friends. Adultery 
was regarded as a form of theft. I gathered that a man had the 
right to punish his wife for unfaithfulness, but if the punishment 
were too severe it would be an occasion for a quarrel with her 
relatives. It was difficult for the aggrieved husband to punish 
the man who had offended against him. If he killed him he 
would lay himself open to the revenge of the relatives. The 
most he could do was to vent his anger in violent words. 

Women also occasionally quarrel with one another and swear 
forcibly at one another, or even get so far as to destroy one 
another's belongings, or to fight with their fists or sticks. The 
men hesitate to interfere, and the quarrel can only be stopped 
by some woman of influence. 

The frequent occurrence of serious quarrels is prevented both 
by the influence of the older men and by the fear that everyone 
has of the possible vengeance of others should he in any way 
offend them. 

There are a number of actions which, while they do not 
offend any particular person, are regarded as being anti-social. 
One of these is laziness. Every man is expected to take his 
proper share in providing both himself and others with food. 
Should a man shirk this obligation, nothing would be said to 
him, unless he were a young unmarried man, and he would still 
be given food by others, but he would find himself occupying a 
position of inferiority in the camp, and would entirely lose the 
esteem of his fellows. Other qualities or actions that result 
in a similar loss of esteem are marital unfaithfulness, lack of 
respect to others and particularly to elders, meanness or niggard- 
liness, and bad temper. One man was mentioned to me as 
being a bad man because he refused to take a wife after he had 


reached the age when it is considered proper for a man to marry. 
In recent times at least one young man has refused to undergo 
the privations connected with the initiation ceremonies. This 
was of course a case of gross rebellion against the customs of the 
tribe, but there was no way of punishing him or of compelling 
him to conform, save by showing him that he was an object of 
contempt and ridicule to others. Probably such a refusal to 
conform to tribal customs could not have taken place before the 
British occupation of the islands. ■— 

Another class of wrong actions consists in the breaking of 
ritual prohibitions. There are, for example, as will be shown in 
a later chapter, a number of actions which it is believed may 
cause bad weather, such as burning bees'-wax or killing a cicada. 
There is, however, no punishment that can be meted out to any 
one who does any of these things. The punishment, if we may 
call it so, is a purely supernatural one, and it strikes not only 
the offender but every one else as well. In the legends of the 
Andamanese there are one or two stories related of how one of 
the ancestors, being angry, deliberately performed one of the 
forbidden actions and thus brought a storm that destroyed many 
human beings \ There are other ritual prohibitions the non- 
observance of which is supposed to bring its own punishment on 
the offender, who, it is believed, will be ill. 

The medicine-men {pko-jufmi) are credited with the power to 
work evil magic, and by its means to make other people ill, and 
even to kill them. A man suspected of evil magic might be 
liable to the vengeance of those who thought that they had been 
injured by him, but though the practice was regarded as repre- 
hensible it does not seem that the society ever acted as a whole 
to punish a man suspected of it. -^ 

Children are reproved for improper behaviour, but they are 
never punished. During their years of infancy they are much 
spoilt, not only by their parents but by every one. During 
the period of adolescence every boy and girl has to undergo a 
somewhat severe discipline, to be described in a later chapter. 

1 See below, Chap. iv. 


This probation, if it may be so called, is enforced by a unanimous 
public opinion. The discipline lasts until the man or woman is 
married and a parent, or if childless as so many now are, until 
he or she has settled down to a position of responsibility. 

Thus, though the Andaman Islanders had a well developed 
social conscience, that is, a system of moral notions as to what 
is right and wrong, there was no such thing as the punishment 
of a crime by the society. If one person injured another it was 
left to the injured one to seek vengeance if he wished and if he 
dared. There were probably always some who would side with 
the criminal, their jattachment to him overcoming their dis- 
approval of his actions. The only painful result of anti-social 
actions was the loss of the esteem of others. This in itself 
was a punishment that the Andamanese, with their great per- 
sonal vanity, would feel keenly, and it was in most instances 
sufficient to prevent such actions. For the rest, good order 
depended largely on the influence of the more prominent men 
and women. 

We have so far considered only the general regulation of 
conduct in the local group, without giving any attention to the 
more special regulations dependent on relationships by blood 
and by marriage. In all human societies there is a system of 
rights and duties regulating the conduct towards one another of 
persons who are related either by consanguinity or through 
marriage. In primitive societies these particular rights and 
duties occupy a position of preponderating importance, owing, 
no doubt, to the small number of persons with whom any 
single person comes into effective social contact. When a 
large proportion of the men and women with whom any person 
comes in contact are related to him, it is clear that relationship 
must count for a good deal in regulating the everyday life of 
the people. 

Different societies have different systems of relationship. 
This means, not only that they attach different duties to particular 
relations, but also that they have different ways of reckoning the 
relationships themselves. The vast majority of primitive peoples 
have some one or other form of what is known to ethnologists 


as the '' classificatory system of relationship^" This system is 
intimately connected with the existence of the social divisions 
known as "clans." In the Andamans there are no clans, and 
the system of relationship is fundamentally different from all the 
classificatory systems. 

To understand the Andamanese system it is necessary to 
examine the terms by which they denote the different kinds of 
relationship which are recognized'^. In many societies having 
the classificatory system of relationship the terms which are 
used to denote relationship are also used as terms of address, 
just as we use the terms " Father " and " Mother." In the 
Andamans this is not so. There are special words that are used 
as terms of address, but these do not imply any relationship 
between the speaker and the person spoken to. In the North 
Andaman those terms are Maia (= Sir) and Miini (= Lady). 
These are used by younger men and women in speaking to older 
persons. For the rest, persons are addressed freely by their 
personal names. There are no terms of address that imply any 
relationship of consanguinity between the person speaking and 
the person whom he addresses. This is an important feature of 
the Andamanese system, distinguishing it from the systems of 
many other primitive societies. 

The following is a list of terms used to denote relationship 
in the North Andaman. There seems to be very little difference 
in this matter between the four tribes of the North {Aka-Cari, 
Aka-Kora, Aka-Bo and Aka-Jeru). 

^ The classificatory system of relationship was first studied and named by Lewis 
H. Morgan, in Systems of Consanguinity and Affinity of the Human Family, 
Washington, Smithsonian Institution, 1871., The subject is also discussed in the 
same author's Ancient Society. Although there has been a good deal of attention 
paid to the systems of relationship of savage tribes since the time of Morgan, there is 
no general work on the subject that supersedes these two books. 

^ The terms used in any society to denote relationships are of interest to the 
ethnologist as an important means to the discovery of the relationship system (i.e. the 
system of juridical and moral institutions) existing in the same society. Without 
a thorough knowledge of the terms in use and their exact meanings it is impossible 
to discover the rights and duties of relatives one to another. It is, however, sometimes 
forgotten that the study of terms of relationship is not an end in itself but a means to 
a more important study. 


aka-7nai his father 

aka-mimi his mother 

ot-tire his child 

oi-otoatue his older brother 

ot-otoatue-cip his older sister 

ot-arai-culute his younger brother 

ot-arai-culute-hp his younger sister 

ot-e-bui or e-bui his wife (her husband) 

e-pota-ciu his father-in-law 

e-pota-cip his mother-in-law 

ot-otone his son-in-law. 

Aka-mai and aka-mimi. The words for " father " and 
" mother " are derived from the terms of address Maia and Mimi 
by the addition in each case of the prefix aka-. By itself the 
term Maia is used by any man or woman in speaking to a man 
older than himself or herself without implying any relation 
between them beyond that of respective age. The addition of 
the prefix aka- changes the word, giving it the meaning " the 
father of somebody." Thus Maia Bora means " Mr Bora " or 
" Sir Bora," if we may so translate it, but Bora aka-mai means 
" Bora's father," and aka-mai Bora means " his or her father 
Bora." The Aka-Jeru equivalent for "my father" is fa-mai, 
the /' being the personal pronoun " my," after which the prefix 
aka- is contracted to a-. Similarly " thy father " is y'a-mai 
and " their father " or " their fathers " is n'a-mai. The word 
aka-mimi is in every respect exactly parallel to aka-mai. These 
two terms are only used when it is necessary to refer to* the 
actual father or mother of anybody. For example, if_a_^an 
be asked Aciu y'a-mai bif (Who your father is?), he will reply 
by giving the name of his own father. 

The stem ot«2«, clearly relates to the social position of the 
father of a family. A man who is a father, or while not having 
any children, is married and occupies an equivalent social posi- 
tion to a father, is addressed by the term which shows his social 
position, Maia. When I call a man Maia, I do not imply that 
he is my father nor that he is related to me at all, but only 
that he is a father. On the other hand, the prefix aka- added 
to the stem makes a possessive form, so that aka-mai means 
"his fa'ther" and fa-mai means "my father." The word mimi 


is exactly parallel. By itself, the stem simply shows that the 
person addressed is a mother, while aka-mimi means " his 

Ot-tire. The word " child," when there is no reference to the 
child of some particular person, is translated e-tire, -tire being 
the stem and e- the prefix ^ With a change of prefix from -e 
to ot-, a possessive form is made, so that ot-tire always means 
"his or her child," with reference to some particular person 
understood. Thus Bora ot-tire would mean " the child of Bora," 
while Bora e-tire or e-tire Bora would mean " the child Bora." 
The phrase fat-tire (my child) is used by either a man or a 
woman to denote his or her child. 

Ot-otoatiie and ot-arai-culute. I was unable to find in the 
languages of the North Andaman any words which could 
properly be translated "brother" or "sister." The two words 
here given are used by the Andamanese to denote persons 
older or younger than the speaker, whether they be brothers 
and sisters or not. The derivation of ot-otoatue could not be 
ascertained, but the word means " he who was born before me," 
and it is used in this sense to denote any person of the speaker's 
generation who is older than himself. If it is necessary to em- 
phasise the female sex of the person spoken of, the suffix -cip 
is added. An alternative word of exactly the same meaning is 
ot-areupu (fem. ot-arep-cip). The word ot-arai-culute is formed 
from the stem culu or culutu meaning "following" or "after," 
which always takes the prefix arai-. (This prefix conveys a 
reference to position in time or space.) The stem is found in 
such phrases as tio if arai-culutu-bom, " I will follow you " 
(literally tio = I, i/'= thou, ctdutu — after, and -Ifom, verbal suffix), 
and tarai-culik " afterwards " {t-arai-culu-ik). The prefix ot- 

^ In the Andamanese languages a large number of words are formed from a stem 
and a prefix. E-, ot-, aka-, ara-, ab- etc. are prefixes of this kind. The function of 
the prefixes is (i) to show that the object denoted by the word is in a dependent 
relation to some other object understood, as for instance that it is part of that other 
object, and (2) to modify the reference of the stem, as for instance while e-tire means 
the offspring of an animal or an human being, era-tire means the offspring of a tree 
or plant (the young shoots) . For a description of these prefixes the reader may be 
referred to the work of Mr Portman, Notes on the Languages of the South Andaman 
Group of Tribes. 


added in front of the usual prefix araz- determines the par- 
ticular use of the word as referring to human beings. Thus 
the word ot-arai~culute means, literally, "he or she who was 
born after me." It is used in this sense by a man or woman 
to denote any person of the same generation who is younger 
than himself. The suffix -cip may be added to denote a female. 
Alternative words of the same meaning are ot-ara-licn and ot- 

These words are not, properly speaking, terms of relationship, 
but serve only to denote the respective ages of two persons. I 
did not discover any terms whatever by which a man can dis- 
tinguish his own brother or sister from any other man or woman 
of the same age. 

Ot-e-bui. The stem -bid means " to marry," as in ii e-bui- 
om = they are married. "My husband" or "my wife" is simply 
fe-bui or fot-e-bid. 

E-pota-ciii and e-pota-cip. The derivation of these words was 
not discovered. They are the terms by which a man distin- 
guishes his wife's father and mother, and a woman her husband's 
father and mother. 

Ot-otone. The word and its meaning are somewhat doubtful. 
It was sometimes used by a man to denote his daughter's 
husband, and perhaps also his son's wife. I once heard it 
applied to a younger sister's husband. It may be compared 
with the same word as used in the South Andaman to be 
mentioned presently. 

So far as could be discovered, there are no words in the 
languages of the North Andaman for grandfather, grandmother, 
uncle, aunt, cousin, etc. The terms given above can be combined 
to describe relatives of this kind, as 

T'a-mimi aka-niai my mother's father 

Ot-e-bui ot-arai-lulute his wife's younger brother 

'1J'' ot-a-mai ot-arai-culute thy father's younger brother 

T'ot-otoatue ot-tire my older brother's child. 

These compound terms are not often used, however. 

The terms of relationship of the Akar-Bale tribe may be 
taken as representative of the tribes of the South Andaman. 
The following list contains all the more important of them. 


da father 

ab-atr father 

in mother 

ar-bua child 

ar-kodire child (father speaking) 

ab-atet child (mother speaking) 

mama grandparent 

jat grandchild 

en-toaka-ya older brother or sister 

ar-dotot younger brother or sister 

otoni son-in-law 

oten daughter-in-law 

ab-i-ya consort (husband or wife) 

aka-yat parent of child's consort 

aka-bua consort's younger brother or sister 

ep-taruo-ya step relative 

ot-cat-ija relative by adoption 

aka-kiiam younger relative 

ab-cuga older relative (male) 

ab-hcpal older relative (female). 

Da and in. Da is the common term of address used when 
speaking to an older man to whom the speaker wishes to show 
respect. A man will speak of his own father as dege da, dege 
being the personal pronoun " my " as used before a word that 
has no prefix. The term In is the common term of address 
used in speaking to women. A man or woman will refer to his 
or her own mother as deg in. The use of these two terms as 
applied to parents is very similar to the use of aka-mai and 
aka-mimi in the North Andaman, with the difference that in 
Akar-Bale the stem da or in does not take a prefix to modify 
its meaning. While the use of the terms Da and In as terms 
of address does not in the least imply that there is any relation- 
ship between the person speaking and the person addressed, yet 
the phrase dege da would in general be understood as referring 
to the speaker's own father. 

Ab-atr. This is a word descriptive of the relationship of a 
father to his child. I never heard a man refer to his own father 
by this term, but it is heard in such phrases as deg' in I'ab-atr 
= my mother's father. It conveys a definite notion of the physio- 
logical relation between a father and his children, and might 
be translated "he who caused me to be conceived." There is 


probably a feminine equivalent meaning "mother," but it was 
not noted. 

Ar-btia, ar-kodire and ab-atet. The Akar-Bale word for 
" infant " is ah-liga or ab-dareka. The latter word is the pho- 
netic equivalent of the e-tire of the Northern languages. A 
parent often speaks of his or her infant son as d'ab-bida, and 
of his infant daughter as d'ab-pal, ab-bula and ab-pal being the 
terms for " male " and " female^" The exact use of the term 
ar-bua is difficult to determine. The stem -bua may be used 
by itself without a prefix. Dege bua (my child) would refer, 
I believe, only to the child of the speaker. On the other hand, 
a man would use the term d'ar-bua as referring not only to his 
own child but also to the child of a brother or a sister, or even 
to a person who was not related to him at all. So far as it 
could be determined, it seems that a man or woman might 
apply this term {ar-bua) to any person of the same generation 
as his or her children, whether a relative or not. It thus means 
"a person of the same generation as my own children," and 
describes, not relationship, but respective age. The word ar- 
kodire refers to the own child of a man, and ab-atet similarly 
refers to the own child of a woman. The two words together 
are thus equivalent to the ot-tire of the North Andaman, the 
Akar-Bale distinguishing between the offspring of a man {ar- 
kodire) and the offspring of a woman {ab-atet). 

Mama. The word is translated above as meaning "grand- 
parent," but it has a wider meaning than this. It is used as a 
term of address to convey more respect than is conveyed by the 
terms Da and In, and is thus used in addressing any man or 
woman who is considerably older than the speaker. With the 
personal pronoun, dege mama, it may be applied by a man or 
woman to any of his grandparents, and also to his father-in-law 
and mother-in-law, and to other senior relatives. 

Jat. The word was explained to me by the natives as 
meaning " grandchild." It seems to be a sort of reciprocal of 
mama, and is apparently applicable by any old man or woman 
to any child of the same generation as his or her own grand- 

^ Dege bula and dege J>al me3.n "my husband" and "my wife" respectively. 


En-toaka-ya and ar-dotot. These two words are used in 
exactly the same way as the words ot-otoatue and ot-arai-culute 
of the North Andaman. They are not properly terms of re- 
lationship, but may be equally used in referring to non-relatives. 
En-toaka-ya means " he who was born before me," and ar-dotot 
means " he who was born after me." I was not able to discover 
any word by which a person could distinguish his own brother 
or sister from others of the same age. It is not certain, however, 
that such a word does not exist. 

Otojii and oten. These are masculine and feminine forms of 
the same word, and are used to denote a daughter's husband 
and a son's wife. Otoni is also applied to a younger sister's 
husband, and oten to a younger brother's wife. The derivation 
of the words was not discovered. 

Aka-yat. This is the native name for the relationship 
subsisting between a person's parents and his parents-in-law. 
My own mother or father is aka-yat to my wife's father or 

Aka-bna. The word is derived from the stem bua, meaning 
"child." It is applied by a man to the younger brothers and 
sisters of his wife, and by a woman to the younger brothers 
and sisters of her husband, 

Ab-i-ya. The word is translated "consort," and means either 
husband or wife. It is derived from the verbal stem -i- meaning 
"to marry" {pn-i-re), ab- being the prefix, and -ya the verbal 

Ep-taruo-ya. The word is used to denote a step-child, or a 
younger step-brother or sister. 

Ot-cat-ya. The word means "adopted." "My adopted child" 
is simply expressed as d' ot-cat-ya, while " my foster father " is 
dege da ot-cat-ya. The stem is -cat-, -ya being the verbal suffix 
and ot- the prefix. 

Aka-kuam. In spite of several enquiries, I was unable to 
ascertain the significance of this word. I heard it applied on 
different occasions to a younger brother or sister, to a younger 
first cousin, and to the brothers and sisters of a wife. The only 
suitable translation would seem to be " my younger relative," 
but it is not certain that it even implies any relationship at all. 


It is perhaps really a term denoting respective social status and 
is used by a married man to denote other married men who 
are somewhat younger than himself, and with whom he is on 
friendly terms. 

Ab-cuga and ab-cupal. These are the masculine and femi- 
nine forms of one word, Mr Portman^ gives them as meaning 
" married man " and " married woman," I heard them used, 
however, with the personal pronoun. Thus a man applied the 
term ab-ctiga to his older brother, his older sister's husband, and 
to his father's brother. In this usage these two terms seem to 
be in a sense reciprocal to aka-kiiam. A younger married man 
will refer to older married men and women as his ab-cuga and 
ab-cupal, while they will call him aka-kuam. 

In his work on the Andamanese, Mr E. H. Man gives a long 
list of terms of relationship for the Aka-Bea tribe^ It will be of 
some interest to compare the terms there given with those of the 
Akar-Bale tribe described above. 

Uab-maiola {U ab-mai-old). This is translated by Mr Man 
as "father." In Aka-Bea the term Maia is the term of address 
corresponding to the Da of Akar-Bale and to the Mai of the 
North Andaman. The suffix -ola, added to this and other terms 
of address serves to convey additional respect, as Maia, Mai-ola, 
Cana, Can-ola, Mama, Mam-ola. Thus ab-mai-ola corresponds 
to the aka-mai of the Northern languages, 

Dia Maia. This is given by Mr Man as applicable to the 
following relatives : — my father's brother, my mother's brother, 
my father's sister's husband, my mother's sister's husband, my 
father's father's brother's (or sister's) son, my husband's grand- 
father, my wife's grandfather, my wife's sister's husband (if elder), 
my husband's sister's husband (if elder). 

Dia maiola. My grandfather, my grandfather's brother, my 
grandmother's brother, my elder sister's husband. 

It must be remembered that these terms are not properly 
terms of relationship at all. Any man who is older than the 
speaker is Maia or Mai-ola to him, the latter implying a slightly 

^ Notes on the Languages of the South Andaman Group of Tribes. 
2 Man, op. cit. p. 421. The dia, or the d'' before a prefix, in the words of this 
list is the pronoun " my." 


higher degree of respect than the former. It is probable that 

the three different terms given above are not used by the natives 

with the very precise distinctions that are drawn by Mr Man. 

It may be noted that Mr Portman writes in this connection : — 

"Maia is an Honorific, equivalent to the English 'Sir,' and is 

used when addressing a male elder. A son calls his father ' Sir,' 

and uses no other word in speaking to, or of, him. A pronoun 

1 . ,. , . .. Dia 7naiola^„ 

emphasises the relationship, as : ^ F fh 

U ab-ca?tola. Given by Mr Man as meaning " my mother." 
It is the feminine equivalent of d'ab-mai-ola, Cana being the 
feminine of Maia, and corresponding to the In of Akar-Bale and 
the Mimi of Aka-Jeru. 

Dia canola. This is given as the Aka-Bea translation of the 
following: — my father's sister, my mother's sister, my father's 
brother's wife, my mother's brother's wife, my grandmother, my 
great aunt, my father's father's sister's daughter, my mother's 
mother's sister's daughter, my husband's grandmother, my wife's 
grandmother, my husband's sister (if senior and a mother), my 
elder brother's wife (if a mother). In its formation the term is 
the feminine equivalent of dia mai-ola, while in its use it is the 
equivalent both of this term and of dia maia. This serves to 
show that there is no real precise distinction between dia maia 
and dia mai-ola, such as Mr Man's list would seem to imply. 
Dia can-ola is not, properly speaking, a term of relationship. 
Any married woman senior to the speaker is entitled to be 
addressed as Cana or Can-ola. 

Uab-cabil. Mr Man gives this as translating " my father, 
my step-father." The feminine equivalent would seem to be d'ab- 
canola, which is given for "my mother" and "my step-mother." 
Mr Portman gives ab-cabil and ab-cana as the Aka-Bea terms 
for "married man" and "married woman^." The two words are 
the equivalents of the Akar-Bale ab-cuga and ab-cupal. 

Uar-odi-ya. This word is given by Mr Man as one of the 
equivalents for " my father." It is parallel to the Akar-Bale 

^ Portman, Notes on the Languages of the Sotith Andaman Group of Tribes, 

P- 255- 

^ Op. cit. p. loo. 


term ab-atr, and is strictly a term of physiological relationship, 
meaning " he who caused me to be conceived." 

Uab-eti-ya. This is translated by Mr Man as " my mother." 
It is the corresponding term to d'ar-odi-ya, and refers to the 
physiological relationship. 

D'ab-weji-ya or d'ab-wejeri-ya. This also means "my mother," 
and is only an alternative word for the above. The stems eti 
and weji or wejeri, seem to be two stems meaning the same 

D'ar-odi-re or d' ar-odi-yate. Given by Mr Man as meaning 
"my son" (if over three years of age, father speaking). It is the 
equivalent of the Akar-Bale ar-kodire. 

Uab-eti-re, d'ab-eti-yate, d'ab-wejl-re, d'ab-weji-yate, d'ab- 
wejeri-re, d' ab-wejeri-yate. These are all given by Mr Man as 
translating "my son" (if over three years of age, mother speaking). 
They are equivalent to the Akar-Bale ab-atet. 

The above words seem to be derived from three stems, -odi-, 
-eti-, and -weji- (or -wejeri-), the stems -eti- and -weji- having 
exactly the same meaning, and belonging, perhaps, to different 
dialects. The words are formed by the addition of the prefixes 
ar- and ab-, and the verbal suffixes -ya, -re, -yate. Thus we 
have ar-odi-ya, " father," and ar-odi-re or ar-odi-yate, " son." 
Similarly we have ab-eti-ya, " mother," and ab-eti-re or ab-eti- 
yate, " son " (mother speaking), while similar equivalents are 
made from the stem -weji-. The words given as meaning " son " 
may also be used to mean " daughter," but when it is necessary 
to emphasise the female sex, the suffix -/^aiz'/ (meaning "female") 
is added, as d'ar-odi-re-pail, d' ab-eti-re-pail. 

Dia Ota and dia kata. These are given by Mr Man as 
meaning respectively " my son " and " my daughter " (if under 
three years of age, either parent speaking). Ota and kata are 
the terms for the male and female genitals. 

Dia ba. This is given by Mr Man as meaning "my daughter" 
(if over three years of age, either parent speaking). It is the 
phonetic equivalent of dege bua in Akar-Bale. 

Dia ba-lola. Given as the equivalent of: — my grandson 
(either grandparent speaking), my brother's grandson (male or 
female speaking), my sister's grandson (male or female speaking). 


The same phrase with the addition of -pail, meaning " female," 
is given as equivalent to : — my granddaughter, my brother's 
granddaughter, and my sister's granddaughter (male or female 

D'ar-ba. According to Mr Man this term is applicable by a 
male or female to the son of a brother, a sister, a half-brother, 
a half-sister, or of a male or female first cousin. With the 
addition of -pail, meaning "female," it is applicable to the 
daughter of any of the above. 

Ad en-toba-re, ad en-toba-ya, ad en-toka-re, ad en-toka-ya. 
These terms are given by Mr Man as alternative equivalents for 
" my elder brother (male or female speaking)." The stem is 
-toba- or -toka-, with the prefix en- and the verbal suffix -re 
or -ya. The ad is a special form of the first personal pronoun, 
generally d\ With the addition of -pail, meaning "female," 
the term is applicable to an elder sister. The word corre- 
sponds, both phonetically and in meaning, to the Akar-Bale 

Uar-doati-ya. Given as meaning "my younger brother (male 
or female speaking)." With the addition of -pail, it is applied 
to a younger sister. Mr Man gives the word as being also 
applicable to a first cousin, if younger than the speaker. 

Uar-weji-ya or d'ar-wejeri-ya. These are given by Mr Man 
as alternative terms for "younger brother," and, with the addition 
of -pail, for " younger sister." It is to be noted that the stem 
-weji- or -wejeri- is the same that occurs in one of the terms 
for " mother," but that the prefix is different, being in this case 
ar- instead of ab-. 

Dia mania. This is given as meaning "my wife's brother, or 
my husband's brother (if of equal standing)." 

Dia mam-ola. Given as the equivalent of the following : — 
my husband's father, my husband's mother, my wife's father, my 
wife's mother, my husband's elder brother, my wife's brother (if 
older), my husband's sister's husband (if older), my wife's sister 
(if older and a mother), my husband's brother's wife (if older), 
my wife's brother's wife (if older). 

Mama and Mam-ola are terms of address in Aka-Bea. 
Mam-ola implies a somewhat greater degree of respect than 


Mama, and this in its turn is more respectful than Mai-ola 
or Maia. 

U aka-kam. Mr Man gives this as a term applicable to the 
following relatives : — my younger brother, my younger half- 
brother. With the addition of -pail, it is applicable to a younger 
sister or half-sister. 

Dia otoniya and dia otin. The first of these terms is given 
as meaning : — my son-in-law (male or female speaking), and 
my younger sister's husband (male or female speaking). The 
second term is feminine, and is given as applicable to the 
following: — daughter-in-law, husband's sister (if younger), hus- 
band's brother's wife (if younger), wife's brother's wife (if 
younger). The terms are thus equivalent, phonetically and in 
meaning, to the Akar-Bale terms otoni and oten. 

Aka-yakat. This is given as the relationship subsisting 
between a married couple's fathers-in-law, and between their 
mothers-in-law. It is the equivalent of the Akar-Bale word 

U aka-ba-bula and (T aka-ba-pail. The meaning of the first of 
these is given as "my husband's brother (if younger)," and of the 
second as "my younger brother's wife." The suffixes -hula and 
-pail mean "male" and "female" respectively. The term aka-ba 
is the phonetic equivalent of the Akar-Bale word aka-bua. The 
latter seems to be applied to the younger brothers and sisters of 
a man's wife or of a woman's husband, and to these alone. The 
use of these terms and of the terms otoni and oten, as recorded 
from the Akar-Bale tribe, may be compared with the usage 
stated by Mr Man, as there is some disagreement. In the 
following table the Aka-Bea terms are given as they are found 
in Mr Man's list, while those of the Akar-Bale tribe are 
given from my own information. 

Husband's younger brother 

Husband's younger sister 

Wife's younger brother 

Wife's younger sister 

Younger brother's wife 

Younger sister's husband otoniya otoni. 












It will be observed that the Akar-Bale list is consistent and 
logical throughout. It seems probable that there is an error in 
Mr Man's list, and that " husband's younger sister" should be 
aka-ba-pail instead of otin^ while "younger brother's wife" should 
be otiii instead of aka-ba-pail. This would make the Aka-Bea 
list consistent with itself and with the Akar-Bale list. 

Mr Man gives, in addition to the terms discussed above, a 
number of compound terms, which we may examine briefly. 

U ar-cabil-entoba-re. This is given as applicable to any first 
cousin or half-brother who is older than the speaker. The 
feminine form is given as d" ar-canol-a-entoba-yate. 

U ar-cabil-entoba-re lai-ik-yate. This is applicable to the wife 
of any first cousin or half-brother, if older than the speaker. As 
lai-ik-yate means " his wife," this is a descriptive term. There is 
a similar term dia canol a-entoba-yate lai-ik-yate for the husband 
of an older female cousin or half-sister. 

Uar-ba lai-ik-yate. This means " the wife of my ar-ba" and 
is therefore applicable to the wife of the son of a brother or 
sister or cousin, and to the husband of a daughter of a brother 
or sister or cousin. 

There are a few other similar compounds that need not be 

In Mr Man's list a step-son is given as eb-aden-ire. The word 
for adoption is ot-cat-ya, d'ot-cat-ya meaning " my adopted 
child" and d'ab-mai-ot-cat-ya "my adopted father." 

The system of terms of relationship of the Andamanese is of 
great interest as being fundamentally different from the systems 
of other uncivilized peoples. It is by no means easy to discover 
the exact usage of the different terms that are mentioned above. 
It is, however, possible to gain a general idea, probably accurate 
in essentials, of the way in which the Andamanese languages 
express the notions of kinship. 

We may consider first the terms of address and the terms 
of relationship formed from them. The terms of address are : — 




Maia or Mai 


Maia Sir 



Cana Lady 


Mama or mamola. 

B. A. 


The first of these is used in addressing males and the second 
in addressing females, while the third may be used either for 
males or for females and implies a higher degree of respect than 
the others. 

In all the languages of the Great Andaman a man refers 
to his own father and mother by adding a personal pronoun 
to the words meaning " Sir" and " Lady." In Aka-Jeru a man 
speaks of his father as fa-mai, and of his mother as fa-mimi, 
the a- being a contracted form of the prefix aka-. This prefix is 
always used in this way in the Northern languages. It is not 
possible to say tico maia, which would be the literal equivalent 
of dege da in Akar-Bale. In the Akar-Bale language the 
translation of " my father " and " my mother " is dege da and 
deg in, the dege being the personal pronoun '* my " as used 
before a word that has no prefix. The same formation is present 
also in the A-Pucikwar and Aka-Kol languages. For example 
in Aka-Kol "my father" is tiye tao, and "my mother" tiye 
in. In the Aka-Bea language, according to the information 
given by Mr Man, the word maia (or maiola) may be used 
combined with a prefix, as in d' ab-maiola — " my father," or 
it may be used simply with the personal pronoun as dta maia 
or dia maiola. According to Mr Man these last two terms are 
applied not to a man's own father, but to the other persons whom 
he addresses as maia. This is contradicted by Mr Portman who 
gives dia maiola as the Aka-Bea for " my father." 

In the Aka-Bea and Akar-Bale languages (as also in 
A-Pucikwar and Aka-Kol) a man always addresses his grand- 
parent or his father-in-law or mother-in-law by the term Mama 
or Ma^nola. He is therefore able to refer to these persons by 
adding the personal pronoun to the term of address, as dege 
mama in Akar-Bale. This cannot, however, be regarded as 
properly a term denoting relationship, for a man may apply the 
term Mama to a man or woman to whom he is not related 
at alP. 

The next kind of words that we may consider are those 
that describe the respective social position of two persons. Such 
are the words ot-otoatue and ot-arai-culiite in Aka-Jeru, meaning 

^ The natives commonly applied the term to me, in the form Mam-jtda.^ 


" he who was born before me " and " he who was born after 
me " respectively. These terms do not, strictly speaking, convey 
any idea of consanguinity, although they are commonly used 
to refer to a brother or a sister. Exactly equivalent terms are 
found in all the languages, for example the en-toaka-ya and 
ar-dot-ot oi Akar-Bale. I was not able to discover in Aka-Jeru 
nor yet in Akar-Bale any term to denote a brother or a sister. 
In Aka-Bea, however, Mr Man records the term ar-weji-ya or 
ar-wejeri-ya. The stem -weji- or -wejeri-, as we shall shortly see, 
is a verbal stem referring to the act of birth, -ya is a verbal suffix, 
and the prefix ar- conveys a reference to position in space or 
time. The whole word seems to mean " he or she who was born 
in the same womb as myself," and is therefore strictly a word 
meaning " brother or sister." It is possible that similar words 
exist in Akar-Jeru and Akar-Bale, but I never came across 

Other terms descriptive of social status are the Akar-Bale 
terms ab-cuga and ab-cupal which refer to married men and 
women particularly those older than the speaker. These also 
are not properly terms of relationship, though a man may refer 
to some of his relatives as d'ab-cuga, adding the personal 
pronoun to what is properly a word descriptive of the social 
position of the person in question. In Aka-Bea the equivalent 
terms are ab-cabil and ab-cana. It would seem that the term 
aka-kuam {aka-kam in Aka-Bea) is of the same kind, being 
applicable by an older married man to a younger. At any rate 
I was unable to discover that it conveyed to the natives any 
notion of relationship. 

There are a certain number of terms that are descriptive 
of definite relationships. In the North ot-e-bui, and in Akar- 
Bale ab-i-ya are both of them derived from verbal stems meaning 
" to marry " and are used to denote a husband or a wife. In 
the North I did not discover any term descriptive of a father or a 
mother save those derived from the terms of address. In Akar- 
Bale and Aka-Bea there are such terms; ab-atr in Akar-Bale 
means " father " while the word for " mother " was not noted ; in 
Aka-Bea a father is ar-odi-ya, and a mother is ab-eti-ya. These 
words are descriptive of the physiological relation between a 



parent and a child. A man's adopted mother could not be his 
ab-eti-ya, for this term applies only to the woman from whose 
womb he issued. Similarly an adopted father or a step-father 
could not be ab-atr or ar-odi-ya. There are similar words 
for child, which also refer to the physiological relation of a child 
to its parent. In the North the stem -tire means " offspring." 
The offspring of a plant, that is the young shoots, are denoted 
by the term era-tire, the prefix era- serving to convey a refer- 
ence to trees and plants. The offspring of an animal or of 
a human being is e-tire. The word e-tire means " the child of 
somebody " without reference to any particular person as the 
parent. In the form ot-tire the word means " his or her child " 
with reference to some person understood. A man or woman 
cannot in strict accuracy apply the term ot-tire to his adopted 
child; though I believe that it might be used in this loose sense 
at times. An adopted child is " he whom I have adopted " 
t oi-colo-kom. In Akar-Bale and Aka-Bea there are different 
terms for "child" according as the reference is to the child 
of a man or to that of a woman. Thus in Akar-Bale the child 
(in the physiological sense) of a father is ar-kodire, and the child 
of a mother is ab-atet. In Aka-Bea the physiological relation of 
a father and child is denoted by the verbal stem -odi-. This 
stem takes the prefix ar-. The word for father is formed by 
adding the verbal suffix -ya {ar-odi-ya). The word for child 
(father speaking) is formed by means of the verbal suffix -re 
or -yate {ar-odi-re or ar-odi-yate). We may translate d' ar-odi-ya 
as meaning " he who caused me to be conceived " while 
d' ar-odi-re or d' ar-odi-yate means " him whom I caused to 
be conceived." In the same language the physiological relation 
of a mother and a child is denoted by the stem -eti-. This stem 
takes the prefix ab-. A mother is ab-eti-ya, and the child of 
a mother is ab-eti-re or ab-eti-yate, the verbal suffixes being used 
in a way similar to that in the case of the terms for father and 
child. In Aka-Bea there is also a stem -weji- or -wejeri- which 
has exactly the same meaning as -eti- and can be substituted for 
it in the terms meaning mother and child, as ab-weji-ya — mother,, 
ab-weji-re = child. 

Other descriptive words used to denote specific. relationships 


are e-pota-ciu and e-pota-cip and ot-otone in the Northern lan- 
guages. The derivations of these words has not been ascer- 
tained. Similar terms in Akar-Bale are otoni and oteft and 
aka-yat. In this language I did not discover any word de- 
scriptive of the relationship of father-in-law or mother-in-law. 
Finally there are such terms as ot-cat-ya (adopted) and ep-taruo-ya 

The most noteworthy feature of these terms is that it is 
impossible by means of them to deal with relationships that are 
at all distant. Thus there is no term by which a man can 
describe his grandfather. In Akar-Bale the phrase dege mama 
might mean a grandfather, but it might equally refer to a father- 
in-law. It is true that the simple terms may be combined as 
Aka-Jeru "aka-mimi aka-mai" = "his mother's father," or Akar- 
Bale " deg' in Vab-atr " = " my mother's father," but these com- 
pounded terms are apparently not often used by the natives. 
A second noteworthy feature is the existence of terms to denote 
physiological relationships (as opposed to merely juridical 
relationships) such as the Aka-Bea ar-odi-ya, etc. Finally there 
is the apparent entire absence, so far as could be determined, 
of any classification of relatives such as is characteristic of the 
classificatory systems of relationship. Where there does seem 
to be some sort of approach to such classification, as in the use of 
the Akar-Bale term dege mama, we find that it is really based 
not on relationships of consanguinity and marriage, but on 
respective social status \ 

As, in the languages of the Andamans, there are few 
words serving to denote relationship, and on the contrary a 

^ The systems of relationship of savage peoples are often very difficult to study, 
even with a thorough mastery of the native language. My account of the Andamanese 
system is not perhaps complete and is therefore open to error. Since the above 
account was written I have had the opportunity of studying in Australia several 
examples of "classificatory" systems of relationship, and can now say very definitely 
that such a system presents an extreme contrast to the system of the Andamans. My 
failure fully to comprehend the Andamanese system was partly due to the difficulties 
of the language, in which I did not have time to become expert, and partly to the 
nature of the Andamanese terms, of which it is by no means easy to discover the 
meaning, even with careful observation. 


developed system of terms denoting social status, so in the 
social organisation of the Andamans there are very few special 
duties between relatives, and the conduct of persons to one 
another is chiefly determined by their respective social positions. 
This will become evident as we proceed, and it will thus be 
shown that there is a close connection between the way the 
natives denote relationships and the way in which their social 
life is affected by questions of relationship. 

We have already seen that in the Andamanese social 
organisation the family is of great importance. A family is 
constituted by a permanent union between one man and one 
woman. In one of its aspects this union is a sexual one. By 
marriage a man acquires the sole right to sexual congress with 
the woman who becomes his wife. At the same time it is the 
duty of a married man to avoid sexual relations with other 
women whether married or unmarried. Promiscuous intercourse 
between the sexes is the rule before marriage, and no harm is 
thought of it. The love affairs of the boys and girls are carried 
on in secret, but the older members of the camp are generally 
fully aware of all that goes on. What generally happens is 
that after a time a youth forms an attachment with some girl 
and a marriage between them results from their love affair. 

It is impossible, at the present time, to discover exactly how 
the Andamanese formerly regarded infidelity on the part of 
a wife or husband. In the Great Andaman there is great laxity 
in this matter at the present day. Quarrels sometimes arise 
when a husband discovers an intrigue between his wife and 
another man, but very often the husband seems to condone the 
adultery of his wife. Mr E. H. Man, writing on this subject, 
says that " conjugal fidelity till death is not the exception, but 
the rule," and adds, " It is undoubtedly true that breaches of 
morality have occasionally taken place among a few of the 
married persons who have resided for any length of time at Port 
Blair, but this is only what might be expected from constant 
association with the Indian convict attendants at the various 
homes ; justice, however, demands that in judging of their moral 
characteristics we should consider only those who have been 


uninfluenced by the vices or virtues of alien races \" At the 
present time conjugal infidelity is very common and is lightly 
regarded. It is almost certain that the establishment of the 
Penal Settlement amongst them has affected their morals in this 
particular, but there does not seem to be any very satisfactory 
evidence that their former morality was quite so strict as Mr Man 
would have us believe. One piece of evidence in this matter 
is that the spread of syphilis, when it was first introduced 
amongst them seems to have been very rapid, and yet this 
was before many of the tribes had been very seriously affected 
by the Settlement. 

Besides the special sexual relation between a husband and 
wife there is a special economic relation, if we may speak of it 
as such. The two share one hut between them, or one portion 
of a communal hut. It is the duty of the wife to provide the 
fire-wood and the water for cooking and drinking, and to cook 
the meals at the family fire. It is the duty of the husband to 
provide flesh food for himself and for his wife, while it is her 
duty to provide and prepare vegetable food. 

A marriage is not regarded as fully consummated until the 
birth of a child. Mr Man states that the survivor of a childless 
couple is not looked upon as the chief mourner. A father 
who has been away from home greets his wife first on his 
return and then greets his other relatives ; but if no child has 
been born to him a husband first greets his blood-relatives 
(father, mother, brothers, etc.) and only after that does he visit 
his wife. 

The only regulation of marriage is on the basis of relationship. 
Marriage is forbidden between near consanguinei. The exact 
rules, in this matter, if indeed there be any exact rules, are 
difficult to discover. It is quite clear that a man would not 
be permitted to marry his sister or half-sister, nor his father's or 
mother's sister, nor his brother's or sister's daughter. The 
question is more difficult when it comes to the matter of cousins. 
In 1908 I only found one pair of first cousins who were married 
to one another, this being in the Aka-Bo tribe. The husband 

^ Man, op. cit. p. 135. He speaks of the wives as "models of constancy." 


and wife were the son and daughter of two brothers. Mr E. H. 
Man writes that " marriage is only permissible between those 
who are known to be not even distantly connected, except by 
wedlock, with each other ; so inexorable, indeed is this rule, that 
it extends and applies equally to such as are related merely by 
the custom of adoption." He adds that marriage between first 
cousins is forbidden. I was not able to satisfy myself on this 
point, but it seemed to me that while such a marriage as that of 
first cousins was not actually regarded as wrong, and therefore 
forbidden, it was regarded as preferable that a man should marry 
a woman not so nearly related to him. No distinction is made 
between different kinds of cousin \ 

My observations did not confirm Mr Man's statement that 
persons related by adoption are forbidden to marry. It is 
necessary, however, to distinguish two different kinds of adop- 
tion. When the parents of a child of less than six or seven 
years of age die, the child is adopted into some other 
family. We may call this " orphan adoption," As will be 
explained later, there is another custom by which children of 
over seven or eight are adopted by a married couple belonging 
to a local group other than that of the parents, and live with 
them till they come of age. The parents of the child are still 
alive and they visit him or her at frequent intervals. No bar 
to marriage is set up by this kind of adoption. An adopted 
son may marry the daughter of his foster-parents. Indeed when 
children are betrothed it is the rule for the girl to be adopted by 
the boy's parents, at any rate for a time. On the other hand it 
is quite possible that a child adopted when of tender years (as an 
orphan) would not be permitted to marry a child of his or her 
foster-parents. I was unable to satisfy myself on this point. 

There seems to be a prejudice against a woman marrying a 
man younger than herself Some of the women with whom 
I talked expressed strong contempt at the idea of marrying 
a man younger than themselves. Unfortunately, I neglected 

^ I collected a number of genealogies from the natives, but unfortunately my own 
inexperience in the use of the genealogical method, and my consequent inability to 
surmount the difficulties with which I met, made this branch of my investigations 
a failure. 


to obtain statistics as to the frequency with which such marriages 
occur, if they occur at all. 

Beyond the prohibition of the marriage of near kin, I could 
not find any restriction on marriage, A man may marry a 
woman from his own local group or from another, from his own 
or from another tribe. That marriages between persons belong- 
ing to the same local group did occur in former times I was able 
to ascertain with certainty but I was not able to determine the 
proportion of such marriages to the whole number. It is pro- 
bable that the majority of marriages, or at any rate a large 
proportion, were between persons belonging to different local 

Marriages are arranged by the older men and women. 
Children are sometimes betrothed by their parents while they 
are still infants. I found one such case in the North Andaman, 
and the betrothed couple, though they were yet small children, 
were spoken of as being "married," Such betrothals are not 
very common at the present time. 

When the parents of a youth who is of suitable age to be 
married perceive that he has formed an attachment with a girl, 
they take it upon them to arrange a marriage. The matter 
is first of all talked over between the young man and his parents. 
The man's parents do not themselves speak to the girl's parents 
of the matter, but request some one or more of their friends 
to do so. From the moment that the possibility of a marriage 
exists the man's parents avoid speaking to the girl's parents. 
Any communication between them is carried on through a 
third person. They send presents to each other, of food and 
other objects. The recipient of such a present hastens to make 
a return of equal value. If the marriage is arranged the parents 
on each side become related to one another by the relationship 
denoted in Akar-Bale by the word aka-yat. The duties implied 
by this relationship will be described later. 

When a marriage has finally been arranged an evening 
is appointed for the ceremony. In the North Andaman this is 
as follows. The bride is seated on a mat at one end of the 
dancing ground, her relatives and friends sitting near her. 
Torches or heaps of resin are lighted near by, so that the 


ceremony may be seen by the on-lookers. The bridegroom 
is seated with his friends at the other end of the dancing ground. 
One of the older and more respected men addresses the bride, 
telling her that she must make a good wife, must provide for 
her husband such things as it is the duty of a wife to obtain or 
make, must see that he does not run after other women, and 
must herself remain faithful to him. He then addresses the 
bridegroom to the same effect, and taking him by the hand 
or arm, leads him to where the bride is seated and makes him 
sit down beside her. The relatives and friends weep loudly, and 
the young couple look very self-conscious and uncomfortable. 
The shyness of the young man is such that he often attempts to 
run away, but he is caught by his friends, who are prepared for 
such an attempt. After some minutes the officiating elder takes 
the arms of the bride and bridegroom and places them around 
each other's necks. After a further interval he again approaches 
and makes the bridegroom sit on the bride's lap\ They sit 
so for some minutes and the ceremony is over. The other 
members of the community generally have a dance on such 
an occasion, but in this the newly wedded pair do not join. 
A hut has already been prepared for them, and all their friends 
make them presents of useful objects with which to start house- 
keeping. They retire shyly to their new hut, while their friends 
continue dancing. The day after the ceremony the bride and 
bridegroom are decorated by their friends with white clay. For 
a few days the newly married couple are very shy of each other, 
hardly venturing to speak to or look at one another : but they 
soon settle down to their new position in the life of the community. 
During the early days of their marriage they are abundantly 
supplied with food by their friends. They are not addressed or 
spoken of by name, but if their names be A and B, the husband is 
called " the husband of B " while the wife is called " the wife 
of A." 

In the South Andaman the ceremony is much the same as in 
the North, the only difference being that the bridegroom is led 
to where the bride is sitting and is made to sit on her lap 
straightway, remaining there for a few minutes. 

1 When a husband and wife greet one another the man sits on the lap of the wife. 


When a husband dies his widow may marry again if she 
wishes. As a rule I believe that it is not considered fitting that 
she should take another husband before the end of her mourning 
for her former one. Mr Man says " it is not considered decorous 
that any fresh alliance should be contracted until about a year 
had elapsed from the date of bereavements" I knew of one case, 
however, of a woman with a young child who married again only 
a fortnight or so after her husband's death. 

Mr Man speaks of a custom " which all but compels a bachelor 
or widower to propose to the childless widow of his elder brother 
or cousin (if she be not past her prime), while she has no choice 
beyond remaining single or accepting him ; should she have no 
younger brother-in-law (or cousin by marriage), however, she 
is free to wed whom she will. It should be added that marriage 
with a deceased wife's younger sister is equally a matter of 
necessity on the part of a childless widower V 

I was not able to come across a case in which a man had 
actually married his elder brother's widow in recent years. The 
natives whom I questioned confirmed Mr Man's statement, 
which, moreover, was based on at least one instance known to 
him as having occurred. It may be noted that in his description 
of this instance Mr Man says that the woman married her 
husband's " brother or cousin," leaving us in doubt as to which of 
these two relatives it really was. There is an ambiguity in the 
use of the term " younger brother," for the Andamanese have no 
word meaning simply " younger brother," but only such terms as 
ot-arai-ciilute and the equivalents in other languages, which apply 
to any younger person, whether actually a brother or cousin or not. 

The recent changes in the social life of the Andamanese 
render it difficult to determine what was the former practice 
in matters of this sort, but I believe that the custom was this, 
that when a man of a local group died the older men selected 
one of the unmarried men and required him to marry the widow. 
They selected a man who was younger than the deceased, that 
is who was his ot-arai-cuhtte, and gave the preference to an 
unmarried younger brother if there were one, or to a relative of 
the deceased, such as a father's brother's son. 

^ Man, oJ>. cit. p. 139. ^ Ibid. 


It may be noted that this custom may conflict with the other 
custom, previously mentioned, that a woman objects to marrying 
a man younger than herself. In the case mentioned by Mr Man 
a young man was compelled to marry a woman who was con- 
siderably his senior^ 

I believe that, in connection with, or underlying this custom 
there was an objection against a widow marrying a man who 
was older than her former husband (and who would therefore be 
his ot-otoatiie). I regret that I cannot speak with certainty 
on these matters. 

We may turn now to the duties to one another of parents 
and children. During their infancy the children are in the care 
of the mother. Children are, however, such favourites with the 
Andamanese that a child is played with and petted and nursed 
not only by his own father and mother but by everyone in the 
village. A woman with an unweaned child will often give suck 
to the children of other women. Babies are not weaned till they 
are three or four years old. 

Before the children can walk, they are carried about by the 
mother, and sometimes by the father or other persons, in a bark 
sling (called ciba in Aka-Jeru), which is shown in Plate XIV. 
After they can walk the children generally accompany their 
mothers in their expeditions near the camp for firewood or 
vegetables. When they are not with their mothers they amuse 
themselves with games in the village or on the beach. All the 
children of the coast villages learn to swim when they are very 
young, in fact almost as soon as they learn to walk, and many 
of their games are conducted in the water. 

When a boy reaches the age of five or six his father makes 
him a toy bow and arrows, and sometimes a toy canoe. From 
this time the boy begins to learn the occupations of men and 
begins to pick up knowledge about the animals and trees and 
fishes of his country. The girl, accompanying her mother on 
her expeditions to gather roots and seeds, or to catch fish or pick 
up molluscs on the reefs, learns what it is necessary for women 
to know. 

Until the age of about eight to ten a child lives with his 
1 Man, op. cit. p. 139. 


parents, having a place in the family hut, and a share of the 
family meal. The children are treated with extreme kindness, 
and are never punished, and hardly ever scolded. Should the 
parents die the children are adopted by friends or relatives, and 
such adopted children are treated by the foster-parents in 
exactly the same way as their own children. 

At the age of ten, or a little before, a change is often brought 
about in the life of a child, owing to the custom of adoption. 
Mr Man writes of this custom as follows : 

" It is said to be of rare occurrence to find any child above 
six or seven years of age residing with its parents, and this 
because it is considered a compliment and also a mark of friend- 
ship for a married man, after paying a visit, to ask his hosts to 
allow him to adopt one of their children. The request is usually 
complied with, and thenceforth the child's home is with his (or 
her) foster-father : though the parents in their turn adopt the 
children of other friends, they nevertheless pay continual visits 
to their own child, and occasionally ask permission (!) to take 
him (or her) away with them for a few days. A man is entirely 
at liberty to please himself in the number of children he adopts, 
but he must treat them with kindness and consideration, and in 
every respect as his own sons and daughters, and they, on their 
part, render him filial affection and obedience. It not unfre- 
quently happens that in course of time permission to adopt 
a foster-child is sought by a friend of the soi-disant father, and 
is at once granted (unless any exceptional circumstance should 
render it personally inconvenient), without even the formality of 
a reference to the actual parents, who are merely informed of 
the change, in order that they may be enabled to pay their 
periodical visitsV 

The above passage is quoted because Mr Man had better 
opportunities of observation in this matter than myself At 
the present day there are not many children in the Andamans, 
and this is an obstacle in the way of this custom of adoption. 
From my own observation,- however, I should put the age at 
which it is customary for children to be adopted at higher than 
six or seven. I found children of about seven or eight still 

^ Man, op. cit. p. 125. 


living with their own parents. The usual age of adoption seemed 
to me to be from nine or ten years upwards. 

A man and his wife adopt in this way children belonging to 
a local group other than their own. The adopted child lives 
with his or her foster-parents, having a place in their hut and a 
share of their meals. From about the age of ten children of 
both sexes begin to be of service to their parents or foster- 
parents in many ways. The foster-parents treat their adopted 
children in exactly the same way that they would treat their 
own children, and the children on the other hand show the same 
regard and affection to their foster-parents that they do to their 
own parents, and assist them in every way that they can. Their 
own parents come to visit them at regular intervals. 

The period of childhood is brought to an end at about the 
age of puberty by certain ceremonies to be described in the 
next chapter. After the beginning of these ceremonies a boy 
ceases to live in the hut of his parents or his foster-parents, and 
must live with the young unmarried men and widowers in what 
has been called the bachelors' hut. From this time until 
he marries, his services are constantly required by his parents or 
by his foster-parents, and he is expected to obey them and help 
them in any way he can. It is only after his marriage that he 
becomes relatively independent and free to please himself in his 
own actions, and even then he is required to provide his parents 
or his foster-parents with food, and to serve them in any way 
they may need. 

A girl, during the period between the beginning of the 
initiation ceremonies and her marriage, continues, at any rate, in 
some cases, and in these days, to live with her parents or with 
foster-parents. Mr Man states that the unmarried women and 
girls occupy a spinsters' hut similar to the bachelors' hut. It is 
possible that this was the former custom. I found instances of 
an unmarried girl occupying a place in the hut of a married 
couple who made use of her services and controlled her conduct, 
regarding her in the light of a foster-daughter. On one occasion 
I found two unmarried girls occupying a separate hut adjoining 
that of a married couple, who looked after the girls who 
occupied it. 


The position of an unmarried girl is very similar to that of 
an unmarried youth. She is required to help her elders, in 
particular either her parents or her foster-parents, i.e. the married 
couple under whose care she is for the time being. 

After marriage a son continues to help his parents, providing 
them with food and seeing that they are comfortable. If either 
a man or a woman lives in a local group other than that of his 
or her parents, he or she pays frequent visits to them. 

From the time that a youth or girl ceases to belong to the 
family household, his or her duties to the parents are really only 
the same in kind as the duties that every young man and 
woman owes to all the older men and women. Though there 
is no difference in kind, yet a man or woman is expected to 
show more affection and respect for his or her own parents than 
to other persons of the same social standing. 

The only other relationship, besides that of husband and 
wife and that of parents and children, which exists inside the 
family, is that between children of the same parents. The con- 
duct of brothers to one another depends on their respective ages. 
The younger is expected to give way to the elder, while the 
latter protects and looks after the former. The relation of 
sisters to one another is similar. 

The duties of a man and woman to his or her relatives, other 
than those to parents, brothers and sisters, and even to some 
extent the duties to these near relatives, are not distinguishable 
in kind from the duties he or she owes to other persons who are 
not relatives. Thus a young married man owes certain duties 
to all the older married men of about the age of his father. 
These duties are the same in kind as those towards his own 
father and his foster-father, the only difference being that he 
must defer more to his own father than to other men, and must 
be more constant in his attentions to him. I could not discover 
any way in which a man distinguished, in his dealings with 
them, his father's brother from his mother's brother. They are 
both of them older men whom he must respect and to whom he 
must make presents of food. Similarly a father's sister is not 
distinguished, so far as 1 could discover, from a mother's sister. 
A man treats both of them in much the same way that he treats 


his own mother, or any other woman of the same age. There 
is only a slight difference in connection with parents-in-law. A 
man would not be so familiar with his parents-in-law as he 
would with his parents or their brothers or sisters, and treats 
them with more deference and respect. This is borne out by 
the Akar-Bale custom of applying to a father-in-law or mother- 
in-law the same term of address {Mama) that is used in speaking 
to grandparents and others to whom it is required to show 
particular deference. 

In the same way there is very little difference between the 
way a man conducts himself towards his elder brother and his 
conduct towards any other man of the same age. Brothers are 
often close comrades, putting their huts next to one another in 
the same village, joining together whenever possible in hunting 
or fishing expeditions, and so on ; but a man may have a 
comrade who is not his brother, whom he will treat in exactly 
the same way. 

The general attitude of a married man to other married men 
somewhat younger than himself is very much that towards a 
younger brother. As between men and women one special duty 
appears in this connection. A married man may not and will 
not have any close dealings with the wife of a man younger than 
himself. It is not considered fitting that he should speak to her. 
If he wished to have any communication with her, he would do 
so through some third person. It would be regarded as a wrong 
thing to do if he were ever to touch her. The only explanation 
that the natives give of this custom is by saying that a man 
feels " shy " or " ashamed " towards his younger brother's or 
friend's wife. The custom is exactly the same with respect to 
the wife of any younger man, whether a brother, a cousin, or 
a stranger. 

This custom depends on the distinction between older and 
younger. A man may be on terms of familiarity with the wife 
of a man older than himself, whom he would treat much as he 
would an elder sister. 

There is one special relationship which has peculiar duties 
attaching to it, and this is the relationship between the father 
and mother of a man on the one hand and the father and 


mother of the man's wife on the other. In the Akar-Bak 
language such persons are said to be aka-yat to one another. 
A man or a woman will not have any immediate dealings with a 
person who is his aka-yat. He will not speak to him, and if they 
should meet or be sitting near to one another they would avoid 
looking at each other. On the other hand a man is constantly 
sending presents to his aka-yat. The natives say that two 
persons in this relation feel " shy " or " ashamed." (There is 
only one word in Andamanese for these two English words, 
ot-jete in Aka-Jeru.) The shyness begins at the moment when 
a marriage between their respective children is first discussed 
as a possibility, and lasts apparently till death. 

As throwing a little light on this peculiar relation it may be | 
mentioned that a similar relation exists between two men who 
have been through either the turtle-eating ceremony or the pig- j 
eating ceremony (to be described in the next chapter) on the ( 
same occasion. Two such men will avoid any contact with 
one another, not speaking to nor looking at each other when j 
they chance to meet, but on the other hand they will be con- \ 
stantly giving each other presents of all kinds, sending them \ 
through some third person. ' 

The main features of the relationship system of the Andaman 
Islanders may be briefly summed up. The duties that on^ 
person owes to another are determined much less by their \ 
relation to one another by consanguinity and marriage, than 1 
by their respective ages and social status. Even within the j 
family, which nevertheless is of importance, I the duty of a child / 
to a parent is very little different from hi^ duty to any other I 
person of the same age.\ There is very little of any special 
customs relating to con'Suct towards different kinds of relatives. 
Corresponding to this we find very few terms to denote relation- 
ships and a considerable development of the terms which denote j 
age and social status. Thus a man's duties to his elder brother \ 
are much the same as those towards the other men of the same 
age, and we find that there is no word for " elder brother" but 
only a term by which a man distinguishes all the men of his 
own generation older than himself from those who are younger. 
Similarly there are no duties that a man owes to his father's 

B. A. 6 


brother or to his mother's brother which he does not also owe, 
in perhaps a less degree, to other men of the same age, and there 
is no term by which he can distinguish his father's brother from 
those others. 

If this account of the system of relationship be accurate it 
will be seen that the Andamanese society contrasts very 
strongly, in this matter, with other primitive societies^ 

It remains for us only to, examine the social relations 
between the different local groups. Two neighbouring groups, 
whether of the same tribe or of different tribes, might be either 
friendly towards one another or unfriendly. Friendly relations 
were kept alive by several of the customs of the Andamanese, 
by the intermarriage of members of different groups, by the 
adoption of children from one group to another, and by the fact 
that a man of one group might take up his residence more or 
less permanently with another (particularly when he married 
a woman of that group, or was adopted when a boy by one 
of the men belonging to it). All these customs served to bind 
some persons in the one group to persons in the other, and thus 
prevent the two groups from becoming entirely unfriendly to 
one another. 

When two neighbouring local groups were friendly to one 
another communication between them was kept up by visitors 
from one group to another, and by occasional meetings of the 
whole of the two groups. 

Either a single person or a family might at any time pay 
a visit to another camp, staying a few days or weeks or even 
longer. A man would, however, only go visiting when he was 
sure of a welcome. Such visits were most frequent in the fine 
months of the year (December to May). As a husband and 
wife in many instances belonged to different local groups they 

^ It would not be safe, however, to base any arguments of importance to sociology 
on the above description of the Andamanese system of relationship alone. Although I 
tried to learn all that I could on the subject, it is quite certain that I did not leam all 
that was to be learnt, and it is possible that further enquiry might have shown that I 
was mistaken in some of my observations. The difficulty of being really sure on these 
matters is due (i) to the fact that the breaking-up of the old local organisation has 
produced many changes in their customs, and (2) to the difficulty of questioning the 
natives on matters connected with relationships when they have no words in their lan- 
guage to denote any but the simplest relationships. 


would, if living with the man's parents, pay a visit every year to 
the parents or other relatives of the wife. The parents of a child 
that had been adopted by a member of another local group 
would make a point of visiting the child when they could. 
Visitors to a camp would always take with them presents to 
be given to their hosts. A visitor was hospitably entertained, 
being given the best of the food, and joined his hosts in their 
hunting and fishing expeditions. The duty of hospitality is one 
upon which the Andamanese lay stress. 

The meetings of two or more local groups were organised\ 
from time to time by the more prominent men. The time and 
place of the meeting would be fixed and invitations sent out to 
the neighbours. The visitors, men, women and children, would 
arrive at the appointed time, and would be accommodated as 
well as possible by the hosts. During the first few hours, as the 
natives themselves told me, everyone would feel a little shy 
and perhaps frightened, and it would take some time for this 
feeling to wear off. The visitors would bring with them various 
objects, such as bows, arrows, adzes, baskets, nets, red paint, 
white clay, and so on. These were given by the visitors to their 
hosts, and other presents were received in return. Although the 
natives themselves regarded the objects thus given as being 
presents, yet when a man gave a present to another he expected 
that he would receive something of equal value in return, and 
would be very angry if the return present did not come up to 
his expectations. A man would sometimes mention, when 
giving his present, that he would like some particular object 
in exchange, but this was the exception and not the rule, and the 
process cannot be spoken of as barter. In certain cases it 
undoubtedly served a useful economic purpose. Thus if a local 
group had no red ochre or white clay in their own country they 
could obtain these commodities by exchange with others who 
had. In the case of a meeting between forest and coast dwellers, 
the former could obtain such things as shells, red paint made 
with turtle fat, and other objects with which they could not 
provide themselves in any other way. It was in this way also that 
the iron obtained from a wreck on one part of the coast would 
be spread over a large area. For the most part, however, as 

6—2 • ' 


each local group, and indeed each family, was able to provide 
itself with everything that it needed in the way of weapons and 
utensils, the exchange of presents did not serve the same 
purpose as trade and barter in more developed communities. 

The purpose that it did serve was a moral one. The object 
of the exchange was to produce a friendly feeling between the two 
persons concerned, and unless it did this it failed of its purpose. 
It gave great scope for the exercise of tact and courtesy. No 
one was free to refuse a present that was offered to him. Each 
man and woman tried to out-do the others in generosity. There 
was a sort of amiable rivalry as to who could give away the 
greatest number of valuable presents. 

The visitors remained with their hosts for a few days. The 
time was spent in hunting, feasting and dancing, and in the 
exchange of presents above described. The hosts made every 
effort to provide the camp with plenty of good things. The 
guests took their share in the hunting and fishing expedi- 
tions. Every evening was spent in singing and dancing. Some 
of the men were sure to have composed new songs for such an 

Such meetings as these were sometimes the means of bring- 
ing to an end past quarrels between the local groups, bqt 
occasionally they were the cause of new quarrels. The hosts, or 
some of them, might think that they had been shabbily treated 
in the matter of presents, or the guests might complain that 
they were not well enough entertained. It often needed a man 
of strong influence to maintain harmony in the camp. Angry 
words might lead to the rapid breaking up of a meeting, and 
even result in a feud between the two groups. 

Quarrels between individuals, as we have seen, were often 
taken up by friends on each side. This was particularly the 
case when the two opponents belonged to different local groups. 
Before the days of the settlement of the islands there often arose 
in this way petty quarrels between neighbouring local groups. In 
some instances there appear to have been feuds of long standing ; 
in others there was a quarrel, a fight or two, and the enemies 
made peace with one another, until a fresh cause of disagreement 
should arise. 


It does not seem that there was ever such a thingf as a 
stand-up fight between two parties. The whole art of fighting 
was to come upon your enemies by surprise, kill one or two of 
them and then retreat. A local group that had some grievance 
against another would decide to make an attack. They might 
seek and obtain the aid of friends from other local groups. The 
men who were to take part in the expedition would paint them- 
selves and put on various ornaments and join in a danced They 
would then set out, either by land or by sea, in the direction of 
the encampment they meant to attack. Their weapons consisted 
of bows and arrows, and they carried no shields or other defensive 
weapons. They would not venture to attack the enemy's camp 
unless they were certain of taking it by surprise. For this reason 
such attacks were generally made either in the evening when the 
Camp would be busy with the preparation of the evening meat, 
or at early dawn, when every one would be asleep. The attack' 
ing party would rush the camp and shoot as many men as they 
eould. If they met with any serious resistance or lost one of 
their own number they would immediately retire. ThoSe 
attacked, if they were really taken by surprise, were generally 
compelled to save themselves by flight. Though the aim of the 
attacking party was to kill the men, it often happened that 
women or children were killed. The whole fight would last 
only a few minutes, ending either with the retirement of the 
attackers before resistance, or the flight of those attacked into 
the jungle. A wounded enemy would be killed if found. 

Such attacks and counter-attacks might be continued for 
some years, thus establishing a feud between two neighbouring 
local groups. More usually, however, after one or two such 
fights peace would be made. In the tribes of the North 
Andaman there was a special peace*making ceremony, that 
will be described in the next chapter. All peace negotiations 
were conducted through the women. One or two of the women I 
of the one group would be sent to interview the women of the , 
other group to see if they were willing to forget the past and 
make friends. It seems that it was largely the rancour of the 

^ The dance is described in the next chapter. 


women over their slain relatives that kept the feud alive, the 
men of the two parties being willing to make friends much 
more readily than the women. 

An example of a long-continued feud, which, to all appear- 
ance, has been in existence for several centuries, is that between 
the Aka-Bea and the Jqrawa of the South Andaman. The 
Jqrawa have the advantage over the Aka-Bea that their camps 
are situated in the dense forest and are difficult to find, while 
the camps of the Aka-Bea are mostly along the sea-coast. At 
the present diZy \}i\& Jqrawa take some precautions against being 
surprised in their camp by a hostile party. The camp is often 
placed on the top of a hill and the trees in the neighbourhood 
are cut down so that they have a good view. The paths leading 
to the camp are also cleared and made wider than is usual in 
a native path. At times it would seem that they keep sentries 
on the look-out. 

The Aka-Bea and the Jqrawa were inveterate enemies. 
Whenever two parties of them met by any chance, or came 
in the neighbourhood of one another, the larger party would 
attack the other. When the Settlement of Port Blair was estab- 
lished, friendly relations were set up with the Aka-Bea, and since 
that time the hostility of the Jqrawa has been directed not only 
against the friendly Andamanese {Aka-Bea, etc.) but also against 

Ithe inhabitants of the Settlements 
Such a thing as fighting on a large scale seems to have been 
unknown amongst the Andamanese. In the early days of the 
Penal Settlement of Port Blair, the natives of the South Andaman 

^ In the years 1872 to 1902 inclusive the Jarawa made eight attacks on camps of 
the friendly Andamanese in different places, in which two of the friendly Andamanese 
men and one girl were killed and three men and one boy were wounded. There were 
also one or two casual meetings between Jarawa and friendly Andamanese. One of 
the friendlies was surprised and killed while turtle hunting in 1894. During the same 
years the Jarawa made on different occasions about twenty attacks on parties of 
convicts or on separate individuals, killing altogether 27 convicts and two police 
constables, and wounding six other convicts. In these skirmishes and in the 
expeditions to which they gave rise three Jarawa were killed and seven wounded 
on various occasions, and several timesy^rawrt men, women or children were captured 
and afterwards released. A number of convicts have at different times run away from 
the Settlement and as some of those were never after heard of they may be supposed 
to have been killed by \he Jarawa. For an official record of dealings with the Jarawa 
see the "Census Report" 1901, pp. 68 — 90. 


combined in large numbers to make an attack on the Settlement, 
but this seems to have been an unusual course of action in order 
to meet what was to them an altogether unusual contingency, 
their territory having been invaded by a large force of foreigners. 
Their only fights amongst themselves seem to have been the 
brief and far from bloody skirmishes described above, where 
only a handful of warriors were engaged on each side and rarely 
more than one or two were killed. Of such a thing as a war in 
which the whole of one tribe joined to fight with another tribe 
I could not find any evidence in what the natives were able to 
tell me of their former customs. 

As showing within what narrow limits the different local 
groups held communication with one another, it may be men- 
tioned that till the year 1875 the Aka-Bea natives of Port Blair 
did not know of the existence of the Aka-Kol tribe, less than 
fifty miles distant, nor of any of the tribes further north. As 
a general rule it may be said that no man knew anything of any 
of the natives living more than twenty miles from his own part 
of the country. 



In such a society as that of the Andaman Islanders it is 
possible to distinguish three different ways in which the actions 
of individuals are regulated or determined by the society. There 
are, first of all, what we may distinguish as ^ moral customs^' 
whereby the actions of individuals in relation^* to one another 
are regulated on principles of right and wrong conduct. It was 
with customs of this kind that we were concerned in the last 
chapter. Secondly, the activities by which the natives obtain 
their food and make the various objects of which they have 
need are determined by tradition. Such activities are purely 
utilitarian and they are regulated, not by commandments similar 
to those of the moral law, but by accumulated technical know- 
ledge as to the means by which a particular object may be 
attained. These we may speak of as the V technical customs'^ 
of the society. 

There are customs of a third kind which are distinguishable 
both from moral customs and from technical customs. For 
example, when a man dies, his near relatives observe certain 
mourning customs, such as covering their bodies with clay. 
Such customs are distinguished from technical customs by 
having no utilitarian purpose. They are distinguished from 
moral customs by this, that they are not immediately concerned 
with the effects of the action of one person upon another. 

It is difficult to find a satisfactory name for all the customs 
of this kind. A large number of them may be spoken of as 
^ceremonial customs/^ and it is this that explains the title of 
the present chapter. 


It is not pretended that this division of social customs into 
three different kinds is of any great or permanent value, and it 
is only introduced as an aid to the exposition of the customs 
of the Andamanese. It will be argued in a later chapter that 
many of the customs described in the present chapter have a 
common psychological basis. 

Of any customs in connection with the birth of children 
I was able to learn very little, as no births at which I could 
be present occurred during my stay at the islands. Earlier 
writers have given very little information on this subject. 

During the latter part of the period of pregnancy, and for 
about a month after the birth of the child, the mother and father 
must observe certain restrictions. In particular there are certain 
foods that they may not eat. The statements of different in- 
formants on this matter did not quite agree with each other, 
and it seems that there were slightly different rules in different 
tribes. According to an Akar-Bale informSLnt the man and 
woman may not eat dugong, honey and yams ; they may eat 
the flesh of small but not of full-grown pigs and turtle. An 
informant of one of the Northern tribes said that the woman 
may not eat full-grown pig, Paradoxtirus, turtle, dugong, the 
fish komar, monitor lizard, honey and yams ; her husband may 
eat these things but must carefully avoid eating certain fishes. 

The natives give two different reasons for these rules. One 
is that if these foods be eaten by the parents the child will be 
ill. The other is that the parents themselves will be ill. The 
latter is the explanation most commonly offered. 

The baby is named some time before it is born, and from 
that time the parents are not addressed or spoken of by name. 
For example, if the name chosen be Rea, the father will be 
spoken of as Rea aka-mai (Rea's father) instead of by his own 
name. The mother may be referred to as Rea it-pet^ from the 
word it-pet meaning "belly." This practice is continued till 
some weeks after the birth, when the use of the names of the 
parents is once more resumed. 

In child-birth the woman is assisted by the matrons of the 
camp. She is seated in her hut in the village on fresh leaves, 
and a piece of wood is placed at her back for her to lean against. 


Her legs are flexed so that her knees may be clasped by her 
arms. The only manipulation is pressure exerted on the upper 
part of the abdomen by one of the attendant women. The 
umbilical cord is severed with a knife, formerly of cane or 
bamboo, but in these days of iron. The after-birth is buried 
in the jungle. The infant is washed and then scraped with 
a Cyrena shell. After a few days he (or she) is given a coating 
of clay ipdu). 

If a baby dies and within a year or two the mother again 
becomes pregnant, it is said that it is the same baby born again, 
and the name of the deceased child is given to it. Thus one 
woman had three children of the same name, the first two having 
died soon after birth. According to the native ideas this was 
really the same child born three times. It is only those who die 
in infancy that are thus reincarnated. 

In the Northern tribes it is believed that a woman can tell 
the sex of her unborn child. If she feels it on the left side it 
is a male, because men hold the bow (the typical masculine 
implement) in the left hand. If she feels it on the right side it 
is a female, because it is in her right hand that a woman holds 
her fishing net. 

A married man who is childless and desires a child will wear 
a ciba (sling of bark used for carrying children) round his 
shoulders when he is sitting in camp. The ciba and the way 
it is used for carrying children may be seen in the photograph 
in Plate XIV. If a childless woman wishes to have a child she 
may catch, cook and eat a certain species of small frog. 

At a place called Tonmuket in the North Andaman there is 
a spot to which it is said that women may resort if they wish to 
become pregnant. On the reef at this spot there are a large 
number of stones which, according to the legend, were once 
little children. The woman who desires a child walks out on 
to the reef when the tide is low and stands upon these stones. 
It is believed that one of the baby souls will enter her body and 
become incarnated 

^ I could not obtain any definite legend about these stones, but one informant said 
that when Biliku got angry and destroyed the world (see later, Chap, iv) the children 
all became stones at this place. 


In the North Andaman there is some sort of association 
between the unborn souls of babies, the green pigeon and the 
Ficus laccifera tree. The same name, Reyko, is used to denote 
both the green pigeon and also the Ficus laccifera, of the fruit 
of which the pigeon is very fond. The belief of the natives is 
sometimes stated by saying that the souls of unborn children 
live in the Ficics trees, and that if a baby dies before it has been 
weaned its soul goes back to the tree. Another statement of 
the natives is that it is when the green pigeon is calling that 
the soul of a baby goes into its mother. The Ficus is to a 
certain extent tabu. I was told that the tree must not be cut 
or damaged. Nevertheless the natives do cut the tree in order 
to obtain the bark of the aerial roots from which they prepare 
a fibre that they use for making personal ornaments. There is 
no tabu in connection with the green pigeon, which may be 
killed and eaten. 

In most primitive societies, if not in all, there are ritual or 
ceremonial obsei-vances in connection with the change by which 
a boy or girl becomes a man or woman. The ceremonies that 
are performed to mark this change are commonly spoken of in 
ethnological literature as "initiation ceremonies." The term is 
not perhaps the best that could be chosen, but usage has rendered 
it familiar. 

The life of an Andaman Islander is divided into three well- 
marked periods, corresponding roughly with the physiological 
periods of childhood, adolescence, and maturity. The first period 
lasts from birth till about the advent of puberty; the second lasts 
from puberty till after marriage ; the third extends from marriage 
to death. 

During the period of childhood the boy or girl lives with his 
or her parents, or, in the later years of the period, with adopted 
parents, having a place in the family hut and a share in the 
family meal. A girl continues to live with her parents or 
with her adopted parents until she marries. When boys have 
finished growing, and have reached the condition of young men, 
they cease to live with their parents or adopted parents and, 
until they are married, they occupy a bachelors' hut of their 
own, and have their own meal. 


Every boy and girl has to undergo the operation of scarifica- 
tion. This is begun when the child is quite young, and a small 
portion of the body is operated on. The operation is repeated 
at intervals during childhood, until the whole body has been 
scarified. A small flake of quartz or glass is used, and a series 
of fine incisions are made in the skin. The usual method is to 
cover a small portion of the skin with a number of parallel rows 
of short cuts. The choice of the design (if it can be called such) 
rests entirely with the person who performs the operation, who 
is in all cases a woman. The incisions leave scars that can 
usually only be seen when close to the person. In the photo- 
graph of Plate XV a pattern of scars may be seen. In this case 
the incisions became infected and raised scars were produced, 
and it is for this reason that they are visible in the photograph. 
In ordinary cases raised scars are not produced and the scarifica- 
tion is hardly visible in a photograph. 

The only reason that the natives give for this custom is 
either that it improves the personal appearance, or else that 
it helps to make the child grow strong. 

In the case of a girl the period of childhood is brought to 
a close by a ceremony that takes place on the occasion of her 
first menstrual discharge. The ceremony I describe is that in 
use in the Northern tribes, but I believe that the ceremony of 
the Southern tribes is very similar. On the occurrence of the 
first menstrual discharge the girl tells her parents, who weep 
over her. She must then go and bathe in the sea for an hour 
or two by herself After that she goes back to her parents' hut 
or to a special shelter that is put up for the occasion. She is 
not required to go away from the camp. All ornaments are 
removed from her, only a single belt of Pandamis leaf being 
left, with an apron of cainyo leaves. Strips of Pandanns leaf are 
attached round her arms near the shoulders and round her wrists, 
and others are placed as bands crossing her chest from the shoulder 
to the waist on the opposite side, and crossing her abdomen from 
the iliac crest on the one side to the trochanter on the other. 
These are so attached that the long loose ends hang down at the 
girl's side. Bunches of leaves, either celino ( Tetranthera lancoefolia) 
or, if these be not obtainable, poramo {My^'istica longifolid) are 


fastened beneath her belt before and behind. Other leaves of 
the same kind are placed for her to sit upon. The strips of 
Pandanns leaf and the bundle of leaves are visible in the 
photograph reproduced in Plate XVI. 

Thus covered with leaves the girl must sit in the hut allotted 
to her, with her legs doubled up beneath her and her arms 
folded. A piece of wood or bamboo is placed at her back for 
her to lean against, as she may not lie down. If she is cramped 
she may stretch one of her legs or one of her arms, but not both 
arms or both legs at the same time. To feed herself she may 
release one of her hands, but she must not take up the food with 
her fingers ; a skewer of cainyo wood^ is given her with which to 
feed herself She may not speak nor sleep for 24 hours. Her 
wants are attended to by her parents and their friends, who sit 
near her to keep her from falling asleep. 

The girl sits thus for three days. Early every morning she 
leaves the hut to bathe for an hour in the sea. At the end 
of the three days she resumes her life in the village. For a 
month following she must bathe in the sea every morning at 

During the ceremony and for a short time afterwards the 
girl is not addressed or spoken of by name, but is referred to 
as Alehe or Toto. The meaning of the first word is not known. 
Toto is the name of the species of Pandanus from which women's 
belts are made and the leaves of which are used in the ceremony. 
On the occasion of this ceremony the girl is given a new name, 
her " flower- name," and from this time till after the birth of her 
first child she is never addressed or spoken of by the name 
which she had as a child, but only by the name given to her 
at this ceremony. The name given is that of a plant or tree 
which is in flower at the time. If the ceremony takes place when 
thejili is in flower she is called J Hi ; if when th^jeru is in flower 
she is named Jeru, and so on. These names will be mentioned 
again later in the present chapter. 

^ This is the plant (not identified) of which the leaves were, till recent times, 
worn by the women of the North Andaman to cover the 'pudenda. In the South 
Andaman the leaves of the Miniusops littoralis are in use for this purpose, and the 
Northern tribes have recently given up their own custom and adopted that of 
the South. 


After this ceremony the girl is said to be aka-ndti-kolot. For 
some time afterwards she must not have her head shaved, and 
she must not use red paint or white clay. 

I was not able to learn much about the native ideas in 
connection with the menstrual function. According to the 
account given me by one informant I gathered that the girl's 
first menstrual discharge is supposed to be due to sexual inter- 
course. The man's breath goes into her nose and this produces 
the discharge. It is believed that if a man were to touch a girl 
during this period, either during the ceremony or for some time 
after it, his arm would swell up. 

At every recurrence of the menstrual period a woman is 
required to abstain from eating certain foods. According to 
an Akar-Bale informant these are, in that tribe, pork, turtle, 
Paradoxurus, honey and yams. An Aka-Cari informant added 
to the above list dugong, monitor lizard, and the fish komar. 
If she ate any of these things at such a time she would be ill. 
This continues throughout her life till the climacteric. A men- 
struating woman is not required to leave the camp, as she is in 
many savage communities. 

From the moment of the ceremony just described the girl 
enters a new condition which is denoted in the Aka-Jeru 
language by the word aka-op {aka-yaba in Aka-Bed). This 
word means that the person to whom it is applied is under 
certain ritual restrictions, chiefly concerned with foods that 
may not be eaten. 

In the case of a boy there is no physiological event so 
clearly marked as there is in that of a girl. It rests with 
the relatives and friends to decide when the boy is to become 
aka-op. It would seem that in the Southern tribes there is no 
ceremony on this occasion. Among the Northern tribes the 
boy is made aka-op by means of a ceremony that consists of 
making the scars on his back that are customary in these tribes^ 

When the friends and relatives of a boy decide that he is old 
enough to have the incisions made in his back a dance is held 
in the evening, and the boy is required to dance through the 

1 Unfortunately I was not able to see this ceremony performed, and my information 
is therefore derived from the statements of the natives. 


whole night till he is tired. As soon as morning breaks he is 
made to bathe in the sea for two hours or so. He is then seated 
in some convenient place, not in a hut. The boy kneels down 
and bends forward till his elbows rest on the ground in front. 
One of the older men takes a pig-arrow and with the sharpened 
blade makes a series of cuts on the boy's back. Each cut is 
horizontal, and they are arranged in three vertical rows, each 
row consisting of from 20 to 30 cuts. When the cutting is 
finished the boy sits up, with a fire at his back, until the bleeding 
stops. During the operation and for a few hours following it 
the boy must remain silent. There is no treatment of the 
wounds to produce raised scars. The scars are much more 
noticeable on some men than on others. 

The boy does not receive a new name on this occasion, but 
for a few weeks his own name is dropped and he is addressed 
and spoken of as Ejido. From this time the boy is described 
as being oko-taliy-kolot, this being the masculine term corre- 
sponding to aka-ndii-kolqt for girls. From the time the cuts 
are made on his back the boy becomes aka-op and is under 
certain restrictions as to what foods he may eat. 

When the wounds on his back are thoroughly healed similar 
cuts are made on his chest. I found a certain number of men 
who had no visible scars on their chests, but in the North 
Andaman every man has the three rows of scars on his back. 
Some of the women of the North Andaman have similar scars 
on their chests and a very few have them also on the back. 
These scars on women are not regularly made as part of the 
initiation ceremonies, and may be made after the woman has 
been married for some years. 

During the period that a boy or girl is aka-op he or she is 
required by the customs of the tribe to abstain from eating 
certain foods. The exact rules in this matter differ from tribe 
to tribe. More particularly there are important differences 
between the coast-dwellers on the one hand and the jungle- 
dwellers on the other. The general principle, however, is in 
all cases the same. The boy (or girl) must abstain from all 
the chief foods of the people, and since he could not abstain 
from them all at one time without starving, he takes them in 


turn. It is in the order in which the different foods are forbidden 
that the chief differences occur. 

In the Aka-Cari tribe of the North Andaman, where all are 
coast-dwellers, the boy or girl, during the first part of the aka-op 
period must not eat turtle, dugong, porpoise, komar (a fish), 
hawksbill turtle, the two kinds of edible grubs {^pata and cokele\ 
the monitor lizard, the flying fox {Pteropus), certain birds (perhaps 
all birds), certain shell-fish, the four varieties of mangrove seed 
{jkao, chni, kabal and kaplo), three edible roots {mino, labo and 
mikulu), and a large number of other vegetable foods, including 
loitok, poroto (if cooked, but it may be eaten raw), bijo, coroyo, 
eelet, buroy, but, bakle, co, catali, and kata. A certain number 
of fishes must be added to this list. This period is brought 
to a end by the turtle-eating ceremony which will be presently 
described. After this ceremony, turtle, which is one of the chief 
foods of the Aka-Cari, may be eaten, although certain parts of 
the turtle (such as the intestinal fat) are still forbidden, and the 
youth is also allowed to eat many of the other foods previously 
forbidden. On the other hand he is now required not to eat 
pork and a number of other foods both animal and vegetable. 
During this second period certain minor ceremonies take place, 
as for instance on the first occasion on which turtle's eggs are 
eaten. This period is brought to an end by the pig-eating 
ceremony. After that the youth is again free to eat pork. As 
turtle and pork are the two most important foods the ceremonies 
and observances in connection with these occupy a position of 
greater importance. After the pig-eating ceremony the youth 
is made free of one food after another, until some time after he 
is married he becomes free to partake of any of the foods avail- 
able. In the case of some of the more important foods, such as 
honey, dugong, porpoise, the fish komar, etc., there is a sort of 
minor ceremony. The only ceremonies of any great importance in 
this tribe are the turtle-eating and the pig-eating ceremonies. 

In the forest-dwelling communities of the North Andaman 
things are necessarily different. These people only eat such 
foods as turtle, dugong, etc. when they are visiting their friends 
on the coast. The three most important ceremonies amongst 
these people are the ^ij/tiri-eating, the pig-eating and the 


honey-eating ceremonies. (The nyuri is a fish that is found in 
the creeks.) According to my informants of the Aka-Bo tribe the 
foods that must be avoided during the first part of the abstention 
period are all species of fish found in inland creeks {nyuri, burto, 
bari, bol, kiiato), the monitor lizard, sucking-pig, two species of 
snake {pr-cubi and uluku-cubi), a number of vegetable foods 
and also honey. After the nytiri-&Si\.mg ceremony the different 
kinds of fish mentioned may be eaten, but the youth or girl 
must then abstain from pork. 

These examples, without entering into further details, will 
suffice to show what is the nature of the aka-op period. During 
that period the youth must abstain for a certain length of time 
from each one of the more important foods of his community. 
After a certain period of abstention he is permitted to eat the 
particular food. On each occasion of thus eating a food for 
the first time after the abstention, there are certain ritua! 
customs that must be observed, and these customs are more 
important in some cases (such as pig, turtle and honey) than 
in others. In the case of some of the foods the only ritual 
observed is that the food must be given by an older man, who 
is himself free to eat it, that it must be eaten in silence, and that 
the man must be painted afterwards with clay (odii). In the 
case of pork and turtle, however, there are fairly elaborate 
ceremonies. The ceremonies are very similar in different parts 
of the islands. The description given below applies to the coast- 
dwellers of the North Andaman. In these communities the 
period of abstention from turtle and other foods begins in the 
case of a girl at the first menstruation, and in the case of a boy 
when his back is cut. It may last only one year or several years, 
according to circumstances, and is brought to a close by the 
turtle-eating ceremony. The details of this are exactly the 
same in the case of a girl and a boy. 

When the older men decide that it is time for a boy who 
has been abstaining from turtle to be released from the restriction, 
a turtle-hunting expedition is arranged, and this is continued 
until a fair number of good turtle are captured. The best of 
these is selected, killed, and cooked. The youth is seated in 
a hut, either that of his parents, or one placed at his disposal by 

B. A. 7 


a friend or one specially built \ All his ornaments are removed. 
(In the case of a girl one belt of Pandanus leaf is retained.) He 
is seated on leaves of the Hibiscus tiliaceus, or if these be not 
obtainable, on those of the Myristica longifolia, and a bundle of 
the same leaves is placed under his folded arms so as to cover 
his belly, while another bundle is placed at his back where there 
is some sort of rest provided for him to lean against. He must 
sit still with folded arms and with legs stretched out in front, 
the two big toes clasping each other. He sits facing towards 
the open sea, and a fire is placed near him, generally just beyond 
ills feet. 

Some man is chosen to take charge of the ceremony. This 

may be one of the older men of the community to which the 

youth belongs or a distinguished visitor, if there be any such 

present in the camp at the time. This man selects some of the 

meat and fat of the cooked turtle, placing them in a wooden 

dish. He comes to where the youth is seated, while the friends 

and relatives gather round. Taking some of the fat he rubs it 

first over the lips and then over the whole body of the youth, 

while the female relatives of the latter sit near and weep loudly. 

When the youth's body is thoroughly covered with fat the man 

who is performing the ceremony takes some burnt oxide of iron, 

such as is used for making red paint, and rubs it over the youth's 

whole body, except the hair of his head. He then takes a piece 

of turtle fat and places it in the youth's mouth, feeding him thus 

with a few mouthfuls which the youth eats in silence. At this 

point the weeping of the relatives is taken up again with renewed 

vigour and then gradually comes to an end. Having fed the 

youth the man then proceeds to massage him. He first stands 

behind him and placing his hands on his shoulders presses down 

on them with all his weight. Then he seizes a roll of flesh on 

each side of the youth's belly and shakes it up and down as 

though to shake down what has been eaten. The arms are 

next massaged and the wrists and knuckles are forcibly flexed 

so as to make the joints " crack." The legs are similarly 

massaged, either with the hands or with the feet, the performer 

^ There is no secrecy about any of the proceedings ; the whole ceremony is 
performed in the village and may be witnessed by anybody. 


(in the latter case) standing on the outstretched legs of the 
youth and rolling the muscles beneath his feet\ The joints 
of the toes are forcibly bent with the hand to make them "crack" 
if possible. A mixture of clay {odu) and water has been prepared 
in a wooden dish. The performer dips his hands into this and 
spatters it over the youth's body from head to foot, either by 
holding his hands near the youth and clapping them together, 
or by jerking the clay off his fingers with a flicking motion. 
During the whole of these proceedings the youth sits passive 
and silent. 

The first part of the ceremony is now over. The food tray 
containing turtle meat and fat, cut into small pieces, is placed 
beside the youth and he is provided with a skewer of the wood 
of the Hibiscus tiliaceus, as he may not touch the meat with his 
fingers. He must sit in the same position with legs outstretched 
and arms folded and surrounded with Hibiscus leaves. To feed 
himself he may unloose one arm, and when his legs are cramped 
he may double them up beneath him. He may not lie down 
nor speak nor sleep for 48 hours. During this period he may 
eat nothing but turtle and drink nothing but water^. The man 
in charge of the ceremony sits behind him and gives him in- 
structions as to what foods he may and what he may not eat 
after the ceremony. Some of the men and women take it in 
turn to sit beside the youth, attending to his wants and talking 
or singing to keep him awake. 

On the morning of the third day a belt and necklace are 
made of pieces of the creeper called terkobito-balo, i.e. "centipede 
creeper" (JPothos scandens), and these are placed round the youth's 
waist and neck. On this day he is permitted to sleep. Either 
on the same day, or early the next morning, he has a bath in the 
sea, to remove some of the red paint and clay, and he is then 
decorated with red paint made of red ochre and turtle fat, and 
with white clay {tol-odu). The red paint is put on in stripes 
over his body, and his ears are daubed with it. The white clay 

^ In the Southern tribes large stones are placed on the youth's thighs. 

^ In these days the natives are very fond of tea, which they obtain from the 
Andamanese Homes; during the ceremony described above the youth or girl is not 
permitted to drink tea. 


is put on in a zig-zag pattern to be described later, the lines 
of white clay alternating with those of red paint. This decora- 
tion is done by female relatives. 

Early on the morning of the fourth day, soon after daybreak, 
the whole village is astir. One of the older men takes his stand 
by the sounding-board used for marking time at dances, and the 
women sit down near him. The youth comes out from his hut 
and stands in the middle of the dancing ground, and five or six 
men stand round him in a circle, each of them facing towards 
the youth. Each of the men, including the youth, holds in each 
hand a bundle of twigs of the Hibiscus tiliaceus or, if such be not 
obtainable, of the Myristica longifolia. The man at the sounding- 
board sings a song, beating time with his foot, in the usual way, 
on the sounding-board, and at the chorus the women join in and 
mark the time by clapping their hands on their thighs. The 
song may be on any subject and is selected by the singer from 
his own repertory. A song referring to turtle-hunting is pre- 
ferred. During the first song the dancers stand at their positions 
on the dancing ground, lifting up their leaf bundles at short 
intervals and bringing them down against their knees. The 
singer then commences a new song or repeats the former one, 
and when the song comes to an end the youth and those with 
him begin their dance. Each dancer flexes his hips so that his 
back is nearly horizontal. He raises his hands to the back of 
his neck so that the two bundles of leaves in his hands rest on 
his back. With knees flexed he leaps from the ground with 
both feet, keeping time to the beating of the sounding-board, 
which is about 144 beats to the minute. At the end of every 
eight jumps or so, the dancer brings his hands forwards, down- 
wards and backwards, giving a vigorous sweep with the bundles 
of leaves, which scrape the ground at each side of his feet, 
and then brings back the bundles to their former position. 
They dance thus for 15 or 30 seconds and then pause to rest. 
The dance is repeated several times, until the youth is tired 
out. As the dance is extremely fatiguing this does not 
take long^ 

^ I believe that the dance is intended to imitate the movement of a turtle as it 
swims through the water. 


The youth then returns to his hut and resumes his former 
position. He may now, if he wishes, talk to his friends and he 
may sleep. He must retain the bundles of Hibiscus leaves and 
the necklace and belt of Pothos leaves. The dance is sometimes 
repeated in the afternoon. It is in any case repeated on each of 
the two days following, and after that the youth resumes his 
ordinary life. For a week or two he may not touch a bow and 
arrow. The Pothos leaves are worn till they are faded and are 
then discarded. The paint on the body wears off and is not 
renewed, but his ears are kept painted with red paint. For 
some weeks the youth is supposed to be in an abnormal con- 
dition and is carefully watched by his friends. 

At the turtle-eating ceremony a new name is given to the 
youth. This name, however, never seems to be used afterwards 
either in speaking of or to the person to whom it belongs. A 
youth of the Aka-Jeru tribe whose birth name was Cop (from 
a species of tree) and whose nick-name or second name was 
Komar (from a species of fish) had two new names given to 
him on the occasion of the turtle-eating ceremony, Cokbi-ciro 
(meaning turtle-liver) and Pilecar (high-tide). Neither of these 
names was ever used in addressing him. 

The turtle-eating ceremony is called in the Northern tribes 
either Cokbi-jo, Cokbi-kiinil, or Kimil-jo. The word cokbi means 
"turtle," and jo means "eating." The word kiinil is more 
difficult to translate. With the prefix ot- or er- it means " hot " 
as in T' ot-kimil-bom, " I am hot." From the time of the com- 
mencement of the ceremony the youth or girl is said to be in 
a condition denoted by the word aka-kimil. During this time, 
i.e. during the ceremony and for some months afterwards, he or 
she is not addressed or spoken of by name but is referred to as 
" Kimil" the word being thus used as a term of address or a 
substitute for the personal name. A person who is in this 
condition is described as aka-kimil-kolot. (Before the ceremony 
the youth is oko-taliy-kolot and the girl is aka-ndu-kolqt.) In the 
Aka-Bea tribe the turtle-eating ceremony is called Yadi-gmnul 
or Gumul-leke, yadi being the word for " turtle " in that language, 
and leke being the equivalent of the jo of Aka-Jeru, that is 
"eating." A youth or girl who is passing or has recently 


passed through the ceremony is said to be aka-guinul, and 
is addressed and spoken of, not by name, but by the term 

In the coast-dwelling communities of the Northern tribes, 
the youth or girl who has passed through the turtle-eating 
ceremony is thereafter free to eat turtle flesh (though not the 
liver nor the intestinal fat of the turtle) and a certain number 
of the other foods that were previously forbidden. On the other 
hand, he or she is now forbidden to eat pork and a number of 
other foods which previously were permitted. The period 
during which these new prohibitions are in force may last for 
a few months or for a year or even longer. It is, however, 
generally shorter than the first period of abstention from turtle. 
It is brought to an end by a pig-eating ceremony which is 
similar in many ways to the turtle-eating ceremony already 
described. A boar must be killed if the initiate be a youth, 
or a sow if it be a girl who is to go through the ceremony. The 
youth is seated in a hut on leaves of the celmo ( Tetrantherd) and 
the carcase of the boar is brought and pressed upon the youth's 
shoulders and back by one of the men. The girl is not treated 
in this way. The pork is then cooked and the youth is first 
anointed and then fed with some of the fat. He is then rubbed 
with red ochre, massaged and splashed with clay, just as in the 
turtle-eating ceremony. He must sit silent with arras crossed, 
and covered with Tetranthera leaves for a day and a night. 
During this time he may only eat pork, and must not touch his 
food with his hands but must use a skewer of Tetranthera wood. 
On the following day he is decorated with white clay {tol-odii) 
and with red paint, and takes part in a dance. The dance is 
almost exactly the same as the dance on the occasion of the 
turtle-eating ceremony, the only differences being that instead 
of Hibiscus leaves those of the Tetranthera are used, and that 
the dancer does not leap with both feet from the ground, but 
raises one foot and stamps with it. 

In the Northern tribes these are the two most important 
ceremonies. After the pig-eating ceremony the youth is free 
to eat pork and a certain number of previously forbidden foods. 
^ The meaning of the word kimil (or gamut) will be discussed in a later chapter. 


There remain a considerable number of foods, however, which he 
is still forbidden. In connection with each of these there is 
some sort of minor ceremony. The older men, when occasion 
arises, offer the youth or girl some of the forbidden food, first 
rubbing it over his or her mouth. The food is then eaten in 
silence. I only saw one such ceremony, when a man ate for 
the first time after his abstention the intestinal fat of the turtle. 
The man was about 24 years of age and had long since been 
through the chief ceremonies, and was married. The ceremony 
is perhaps more elaborate in the case of the similar first eating 
of honey, dugong and a few other foods. One after another of ' 
the food prohibitions is removed until the man or woman is free 
to eat anything. There is no regular order in which this takes 
place, as in each case it is determined by chance circumstances. 
The only order that is rigorously observed is that of the two chief 
ceremonies connected with pork and turtle. These two are the 
principal meat foods of the coast-dwellers. 

The above description applies strictly only to the coast- 
dwellers of the North Andaman {Aka-Cari, Aka-Jeru and Aka- 
Kgra). I was not able to see any ceremonies performed by the 
jungle-dwellers. The old men of the Aka-Bo tribe told me that 
the period of abstention begins when a boy or girl is forbidden 
to eat the fish nyuri {Plotosus sp. probably P. arab), and a certain 
number of other foods, not including pork. The first ceremony 
is the eating of the nyuri. The boy or girl is seated on leaves 
{kibir or tare or ra-cird) and bundles of these are placed in his 
belt before and behind. A belt of Pandanus leaf is worn by the 
boys at this ceremony as well as by the girls. The initiate sits 
with his legs doubled up beneath him, and is fed with the fish. 
The ceremony lasts only one day. There is no special dance, 
but the initiate joins in an ordinary dance at the end of the 
ceremony, being decorated for this purpose with white clay. 
After this ceremony the youth must abstain from pork and 
other foods. The pig-eating ceremony, which closes this 
period of abstention, lasts altogether for three or four days, 
the initiate remaining awake for one night. The leaves used 
are the same as those of the first (fish-eating) ceremony. 
The third important ceremony of these communities is the 


honey-eating. The initiate sits cross-legged and honey is 
rubbed over his or her shoulders and chest, and he or she is 
fed with it. 

I was told by one of my informants that in the Aka-Kede 
tribe the pig-eating ceremony precedes the turtle-eating, but 
I could not obtain reliable information about the ceremonies 
of this tribe. 

My informants of the Akar-Bale tribe, which consists of 
coast-dwelling communities only, told me that the period of 
abstention begins with turtle, honey, turtle's eggs, yams, and 
a number of fruits and seeds. This period lasts for three or 
four years. Then comes the turtle-eating ceremony, which is 
said to be similar in its details to that already described from 
the North Andaman. After this ceremony the initiate may not 
eat dugong, porpoise and a considerable number of fishes (in- 
cluding Tetrodon sp., Plotosus sp., Anguilla bengalensis, Trygon 
bleekari, T. sipken, Urogymnus asperrimus, Carcharias gange- 
ticiis, etc.). He must also abstain from turtle's eggs, pig, yams, 
honey, and certain fruits (e.g. A rtocarpus chaplasha, Mimusops 
littoralis, Baccaurea sapida, etc.). A few months after the turtle- 
eating ceremony there is a minor ceremony of eating turtle's 
eggs, the eggs being eaten in silence and the meal followed by 
a dance. After another period follows the ceremony of eating 
pig's kidney-fat. Then, as opportunity occurs, the initiate eats 
dugong, honey and the other forbidden foods, one after another. 
The ceremony in each case is not elaborate except in connection 
with such important foods as dugong and honey. 

Mr E. H. Man has given a description of the ceremonies of 
the Aka-Bea tribe, which shows that they are essentially similar 
to those of the North. He does not distinguish between the 
ceremonies of the aryoto (coast-dwellers) and those of the 
ereintaga (jungle-dwellers). He states that the fasting period 
{aka-yaba) is divided into three parts, the first ending with the 
yadi- (turtle) guinul, the second with the aja- (honey) gtunul, and 
the third with the reg-jiri- (kidney-fat o{ ^\<g) ginnuL 

As I was not able to witness the honey-eating ceremony, 
I venture to reproduce below the description that Mr Man gives 
of this ceremony as it is conducted in the Aka-Bea tribe. 


" When the honey fast is to be broken a quantity of honey- 
combs, according to the number assembled, are on the appointed 
day procured : the aka-yab being placed in the midst of the 
group, the chief or other elder goes to him with a large honey- 
comb wrapped in leaves ; after helping the novice to a large 
mouthful, which he does by means of a bamboo or iron knife, 
he presents the remainder to him, and then leaves him to devour 
it in silence : this he does, not, however, by the ordinary method, 
for it is an essential part of the ceremony that he should not use 
his fingers to break off pieces, but eat it bear-fashion, by holding 
the comb up to his mouth and attacking it with his teeth and 
lips. After satisfying his present requirements, he wraps what 
is left of the comb in leaves for later consumption. The chief 
then takes another comb and anoints the youth by squeezing it 
over his head, rubbing the honey well into his body as it trickles 
down. The proceedings at this stage are interrupted by a bath, 
in order to remove all traces of the honey, which would otherwise 
be a source of considerable inconvenience by attracting ants. 
Beyond the observance of silence, and continued abstention from 
reg-jiri (pig's kidney-fat), the youth is under no special restric- 
tions, being able to eat, drink and sleep as much as he pleases. 
Early the following morning the lad decorates himself with leaves 
of a species of Alpinia, called //«z'\ and then, in the presence of 
his friends, goes into the sea (or, if he be an ereintaga, into a 
creek) up to his waist, where, locking his thumbs together, he 
splashes as much water as possible over himself and the by- 
standers, occasionally ducking his head under the surface as 
well. This is considered a safeguard or charm against snakes, 
and the onlookers cry "oto-pedike, kinig wara-jobo Iqtike " (Go and 
splash yourself, or Wara-jobo^ will get inside you), for they 
imagine that unless they go through this splashing performance, 
this snake will by some means enter their stomachs and so cause 
death. The only difference between the sexes with respect to 
the aja-guinul is that with females it cannot take place until 

1 This plant is selected because it is associated with honey-gathering ; its bitter 
sap, being extremely obnoxious to bees, is smeared over their persons when taking 
a comb, and enables them to escape scot free with their prize. (Note by Mr Man.) 

2 This is believed to be the Ophiophagus elaps. (Note by Mr Man. ) 


after the birth of the first child ; they are also required to abstain 
from honey during each subsequent pregnancy ; and in their case, 
too, a chief or elder (preferably a relative) officiates, and not a 
woman \" 

We may now proceed to the ritual customs connected with 
death and burial. In all the Great Andaman tribes disease and 
death are supposed to be due to the spirits of the jungle and the 
sea. The subject will be dealt with in the next chapter. 

On the occurrence of a death the news quickly spreads 
through the camp, and all the women collect round the body 
and, sitting down, weep loudly until they are exhausted. The 
women then retire and the men come and weep over the corpse. 
All the adult members of the community then proceed to cover 
themselves with a wash of common clay smeared evenly over 
their bodies and limbs. This clay is of the kind called odu in 
Aka-Jerii and og in Aka-Bea. The nearer relatives and more 
intimate friends of the deceased also plaster some of the same 
clay on their heads. 

Some of the women, generally, but not necessarily, relatives, 
remove any ornaments the dead person may have been wearing, 
shave the head and decorate the body. This decoration consists 
of lines of fine pattern in white clay alternating with bands of 
red paint. A band of red paint is placed across the upper lip 
passing from ear to ear and the ears themselves are smeared 
with the pigment. The greater the estimation in which the 
deceased person is held the greater is the care lavished upon 
this the last decoration. 

Thus decorated the body is prepared for burial. The legs 
and arms are flexed so that the knees come up under the chin 
and the fists rest against the cheeks. A Cyrena shell (or some- 
times in these days a steel knife) is placed in the closed hand. 
A sleeping mat is wrapped round the body, and over this a 
number of the large palm leaves known as kobo {Aka-Jeru) are 
arranged and the whole is made into a bundle and tied up with 
rope. Before the ropes are all tied the relatives of the dead 
person take their last farewell by gently blowing on the face of 
the corpse. 

^ Man, op. cit. p. 133. 


The male relatives and friends then proceed to the spot 
selected for the burial, one of them carrying the corpse slung on 
his back. If the burial place can be reached by canoe, no 
hesitation is shown in making use of a canoe for the purpose. 
There are not, so far as could be discovered, any rules as to 
which of the men shall undertake the burial. Such relatives as 
brother, father, son or husband generally take the leading part. 
The women take no part in the actual burial. There are two 
modes of disposing of the body, in a grave dug in the ground, or 
upon a platform placed in a tree. The latter is considered the 
more honourable form of burial, and is only adopted in the case 
of a man or woman dying in the prime of life. The same grave 
is not used twice, in the case of interment, though a new 
grave may be made close to an old one. The natives said that 
the same tree might be used several times for platform-burial, 
but there was no opportunity of proving this statement. There 
are not, generally speaking, any regular burying grounds. Any 
convenient spot may be chosen so long as it is at some little 
distance from the camp. It does happen, however, that certain 
spots are fairly regularly used. In the case of one burial that I 
witnessed the spot chosen was about a mile distant from the 
camp, the journey being made in a canoe, and there were already 
five or six graves at the same place. 

In the case of interment a hole is dug three or four feet in 
depth, the digging being done with an adze and a digging stick, 
and sometimes a wooden dish is used to scoop out the soil. The 
body is placed in the hole and the ropes tied round it are 
severed. The body is placed slightly on its side facing the east. 
I asked some of the natives the reason for this orientation, and 
was told that if the custom were not observed the sun would 
not rise and the world would be left in darkness. A pillow of 
wood is placed under the head, and a log of wood at each 
side of the corpse. Sometimes some object that has been 
worn by the deceased, such as a belt or necklace, is placed in 
the grave. The soil is then replaced, all present helping. Beside 
the grave a fire is lighted and some water contained in a bamboo 
vessel or in a nautilus shell is left for the corpse. In some cases 
the bow belonging to the deceased, if it be a man, and a few 


arrows are placed on the grave. In the Aka-Cari tribe a 
harpoon and line are substituted for the bow and arrows, and 
a bamboo harpoon shaft is erected vertically in the grave near 
the right hand of the body. In the same tribe it is usual to 
suspend near the grave a bundle of the prepared fibre of 
Anadendron paniculatutn such as is used for making thread. 
There are probably slight variations of custom in this respect in 
different tribes or even in different cases in the same tribe. 

In the case of platform-burial a platform of sticks is erected 
in a tree, twelve feet or so above the ground, and the body is 
placed thereon, lying sideways facing the east. Water and fire 
are placed beneath the tree. Mr Man states that in cases of 
tree-burial they are careful not to select a fruit tree or one of a 
species used for the manufacture of their canoes, bows and other 
implements. Such natives as I questioned on this point said 
that this was not so and that they would use any suitable tree 
whether one that was useful or not. I was unable definitely to 
prove the point, as I did not see a single instance of tree-burial 
during my stay in the islands. A tree that is sometimes used 
for this purpose is the Ficiis laccifera, which as we have seen 
has a special connection with the spirits of new-born children. 
On the coast, mangrove trees, such as the Rhizophora or 
Bruguiera, are said to be used. 

When the burial is completed, whether in a grave or a tree, 
plumes made of shredded palm-leaf stem koro (^Aka-Jeni) or ara 
{Aka-Bed) are attached near the graves to the branches of trees 
or shrubs or to sticks put up for the purpose. This is done, it is 
said, to show any native, who might inadvertently approach, that 
there has been a burial at the spot. The undergrowth is cleared 
for a short distance round the grave. 

The men then return to the camp, where the women have 
been busy packing up all belongings. Plumes of shredded 
palm-leaf stem {koro) are put up at the entrance to the camp, to 
show chance visitors that there has been a death. The camp is 
then deserted, the natives moving to some other camping ground 
until the period of mourning is over, when they may, if they 
wish, return to the deserted village. No one goes near the grave 
again until the period of mourning is over. 


In the case of very young children the burial ceremony is 
different. There is no general mourning of the whole camp. 
Only the father and mother and a few other relatives weep over 
the dead body. The head of the corpse is shaved and the body 
is decorated in the same way as that of an adult. The body is 
wrapped up in palm leaves {Licuald), the limbs being flexed. 
The fire is then removed from its customary place and a grave 
is dug there in the floor of the hut. In this the child's body is 
placed, the grave is filled in and the fire replaced above it. Not 
only is the camp not deserted, but there seems to be an obligation 
on the parents not to leave the place until the bones have been 
dug up, or at any rate for some weeks after the death. If the 
mother went away, the natives say, the baby would cry for its 
mother's milk. This is the custom of the Northern tribes. 
Referring to the Southern tribes, Mr Man says that the baby is 
buried beneath the fireplace and the camp is then deserted, the 
mother placing beside the grave a shell containing some milk 
squeezed from her breasts. Some of my informants of the 
Southern tribes {Akar-Bale, etc.) told me however that the camp 
would not be deserted in the case of the death of an infant, thus 
contradicting Mr Man's statement. As there was no opportunity 
of testing the point by reference to an actual case, it must be left 
as doubtful. In the Northern tribes when an older child dies 
the body is buried away from the camp, but the latter is not, at 
any rate in all instances, deserted, though the hut in which the 
death occurred may be destroyed and a new one built a short 
distance away. It is only in the case of the death of an adult 
that the camp is abandoned. 

In connection with the burial of a baby beneath the hearth 
there is a belief that the soul of the dead baby may re-enter the 
mother and be born again. This would seem to be one of the 
reasons why the mother does not leave the camp when her baby 

Should a person die while on a visit, he or she is buried in 
the usual way and news of the death and place of burial is sent 
to the relatives. A stranger who dies or is killed is buried 
unceremoniously or is cast into the sea. Among the Northern 
tribes the body of such a one used in former days to be disposed 


of by cutting it into pieces and burning it on a fire. The natives 
say that if this be done the ' blood ' and the ' fat ' of the dead 
man go up to the sky and this removes all danger to the living 
from the dead man. The blood of persons so burnt is seen in 
the sky at sunset. If a man were killed in a fight between two 
communities and his body remained with the enemy, they would 
dispose of it in this way. If the friends secured the body they 
would bury it in the usual way. It may be worthy of remark 
that this custom of burning the bodies of slain enemies is 
perhaps the real origin of the belief that the Andamanese are or 
were cannibals. We can well imagine that when, as must have 
often happened, sailors venturing to land on the islands have 
been killed and the survivors have seen the bodies of their 
companions cut up and placed on fires, they would readily con- 
clude that they were witnessing a cannibal feast. There can be 
no doubt whatever that since the islands were occupied in 1858 
the inhabitants have not practised cannibalism, and there is no 
good reason to suppose that they once followed the custom and 
then abandoned it. 

The burial is conducted, if possible, on the day of the death. 
If it has to be deferred till the morrow all the inhabitants of the 
camp keep awake. The relatives sit round the corpse weeping 
at intervals, while some of the men take it in turn to sing songs 
during the hours of darkness. This, so they say, is to keep away 
the spirits that have caused the death, and so prevent them from 
further mischief. When a man or woman dies in the prime of 
life after a short illness the friends and relatives often break out 
in anger which they express in different ways. A man will 
shout threats and curses at the spirits that he conceives to be 
responsible for the death of his friend. He may pick up his 
bow and discharge his arrows in all directions, or in some other 
way give expression to his angry feelings. On the occasion 
of a death in one of the Akar-Bale villages the relatives 
expressed their grief by cutting down a coconut tree that 
grew there. 

The period of mourning for near relatives — parent, adult 
child, consort, brother or sister — lasts for several months. In 
the case of a young child only the parents mourn. The essentials 


of mourning are (i) the use of clay {odu), and (2) abstention 
from certain foods, from dancing, and from the use of white clay 
{tol) and red paint. As stated above, every adult in the camp 
covers himself or herself with clay on the death of an adult 
member of the community, but when this wears off, or is washed 
off in the course of two or three days, it is not renewed. The 
near relatives retain this covering of clay for many weeks, 
constantly renewing it. The clay is smeared evenly over the 
body, and is not put on in patterns, as on other occasions. The 
relatives, but not the others, plaster some of the same clay on 
their heads. A widow mourning for her husband covers her 
whole head with a thick layer of clay, renewing it from time 
to time. For a lesser degree of mourning, the custom is to 
plaster clay on the forehead only. After some weeks or months 
of mourning, the near relatives discontinue the use of clay on 
their bodies, but retain a band of clay over the forehead as 
shown in Plates IX, X, and XVII. 

The name of the clay thus used is odti in the Northern 
languages, and a mourner is called aka-odu. In the Aka-Bea 
language the name of the clay is og and the term for a mourner 
is aka-og. 

During the period of mourning the name of the dead person 
is carefully avoided and no one uses it. If it is necessary to 
refer to the dead this is done by using some such phrase as " he 
who is buried by the big rock " or " he who is laid in the fig 
tree " or by mentioning the name of the place of burial. There 
is no prohibition against mentioning the name itself in other 
connections. Thus if a man were called Biiio, from the name 
of a species of Mucuna, it is not necessary to avoid the word 
bnio when speaking of the plant. Further if there is another 
person alive of the same name as the dead man it is not ne- 
cessary to avoid the name in referring to the living individual. 
The custom is that a dead person must not be spoken of unless 
it is absolutely necessary, and then must not be spoken of by 
name. After the period of mourning is over the dead person 
may again be spoken of by name. 

During the period of mourning a near relative of the deceased 
is never addressed or spoken of by name. There are certain 


terms which are used for this purpose, being terms of address 
that can be substituted for the names that are avoided. Thus 
in the Aka-Jeru language one such term is Bolok, meaning 
" orphan," used in addressing or speaking of a person who has 
lately lost a parent. Another term of the same language is 
Ropuc, applicable to one who has lost a brother or sister. After 
the period of mourning is over the use of the personal name of 
the mourner is resumed. 

During the period of mourning the near relatives of the 
deceased are required by custom to abstain from dancing and 
from using red paint or white clay. The white clay here referred 
to is that called tol or tol-odu in Aka-Jeru and tala-ogm Aka-Bea, 
and is used for decorating the body on ceremonial occasions, 
such as that of a big dance. Further, the mourners must abstain 
from eating certain foods. The customs with regard to the foods 
to be avoided are different in different parts. There is however 
the universal rule that coast-dwellers must not eat turtle, and 
jungle-dwellers must avoid pork. Other foods that are included 
amongst those to be avoided are dugong, certain fishes such as 
that called komar in Aka-Jeru, and in some parts yams and 

The exact duration of the period of mourning is difficult to 
discover. It se,ems to vary considerably in different cases. In 
all cases it must last long enough for the flesh to decay from 
the bones. The proceedings at the end of mourning consist of 
(i) digging up the bones of the dead man or woman and (2) a 
dance in which all the mourners join. The bones are generally 
dug up by the men who performed the burial. They cover 
themselves with clay {pdu) and proceed to the grave or tree and 
dig up or take down the bones and weep over them. These are 
then washed in the sea or a creek and are taken back to camp. 
Here they are received by the women who weep over them in 
their turn. The skull and jawbone are decorated with red paint 
and white clay, and each separately has a band of ornamental 
netting attached to it so that it may be worn around the neck. 
Additional ornament is frequently added in the form of strings 
of Dentaliuni or other shells. The skulls and jawbones of 
deceased relatives are preserved for a long time, and are worn 


round the neck either in front or behind. The photograph in 
Plate XVIII shows a woman wearing the skull of her deceased 
sister. Like all their other possessions these relics are lent or 
exchanged, passing from one person to another, until some- 
times a skull may be found in the possession of a man who 
does not know to whom it belonged. The other bones are 
also preserved. The limb bones are generally painted with 
red paint and white clay and are kept in the roof of the hut. 
They are not treasured as much as the skull and jaw, and 
are often mislaid. Thus, while every camp is sure to contain 
a number of skulls and jaw-bones it is comparatively rarely 
that the limb bones are to be found. The other bones are 
made into strings, such bones as those of the hand and foot 
being used as they are, while ribs and vertebrae are broken up 
into pieces of convenient size. The bones or pieces of bone are 
attached to a length of rope by means of thread and the string 
thus produced is often ornamented with the dried yellow skin 
of the Dendrobiiim. and with shells. The whole is covered with 
red paint. These strings of bone are worn as cures for and 
preventives of illness. If a man has a head-ache, for instance, 
he will attach one of the strings round his head. They are in 
almost constant use in every camp and every man and woman 
is sure to possess one or two. The bones are made into strings 
by the female relatives of the deceased and are then given away 
as presents. 

In the North Andaman the skull of a baby is preserved by 
enclosing it in a small basket just big enough to contain it, the 
top of the basket, which is narrower than the lower part, being 
only finished after the skull is placed inside, so that it cannot 
fall out and can only be removed by unfastening the rim of the 
basket. Mr Man states that children's skulls are not carried 
in baskets, except temporarily as when travelling, fishing, etc., 
but are preserved from injury by being entirely covered with 
string^ This applies only to the tribes of the South and Middle 

At about the time that the bones are recovered there takes 
place a special ceremony referred to as " taking off the clay " or 

^ Man, loc. cit. p. 143. 
B. A. 8 


"the shedding of tears." The object of this ceremony is to 
release the mourners from the restrictions that they have had 
to observe. The ceremony takes place in the evening, and an 
occasion is chosen when there-are plenty of people in the camp. 
The mourners, male and female, remove the odu clay from their 
foreheads and decorate themselves with red paint and white clay 
in the way described in connection with dancing. They also 
put on what ornaments of Pandanus leaf or netting and 
Dentaliiim shell they may possess or be able to borrow. When 
all the members of the camp are assembled around the dancing 
ground one of the male mourners takes his stand at the sounding- 
board and sings a song. This song does not refer in any way 
to the dead man or woman ; it is just an ordinary song of 
hunting or canoe-cutting or any other subject, though it may 
have been specially composed for the occasion. Those women 
who are not in mourning sit near the singer and take up the 
chorus. When the song is fairly started the mourners, male and 
female, begin to dance. There is nothing special about the 
dance, which is exactly like any other dance. After dancing 
for a short time the mourners seat themselves at one end of the 
dancing ground and their friends begin to weep and wail. 
Everybody present joins in the lamentation until they are tired. 
The mourners then rise and again dance. After a time the 
women retire and seat themselves with the chorus, but the men 
continue the dance (in which they are joined by the other men 
present), till they are tired, which often means till near dawn. 
After this ceremony the mourners are free to eat any of the 
foods up till then forbidden, and are free once more to use red 
paint and white clay and to take their part in all dances and 
other festivities. 

It has been seen from the preceding descriptions that the 
Andamanese have a number of ritual customs relating to food. 
There are certain occasions in the life of every individual when 
he or she must abstain from eating certain foods. A person 
mourning for the death of a relative is subjected to restrictions 
of this kind, and so are the parents of a new-born child for 
a short period before and after the birth. A woman must 
not eat certain things when she is menstruating. Restrictions 


as to diet are imposed by custom on all persons who are ill 
The most important restrictions, however, are those imposed on 
every boy and girl during the period of adolescence. During 
this period of life, as we have seen, the initiate is required 
to abstain for a longer or shorter period from all the most 
important foods of the Andamanese. 

Mr Man states that "every Andamanese man or woman 
is prohibited all through life from eating some one (or more) 
fish or animal : in most cases the forbidden dainty is one which 
in childhood was observed (or imagined) by the mother to 
occasion some functional derangement ; when of an age to 
understand it the circumstance is explained, and cause and 
effect being clearly demonstrated, the individual in question 
thenceforth considers that particular meat his yat-tub, and avoids 
it carefully. In cases where no evil consequences have resulted 
from partaking of any kind of food, the fortunate person is 
privileged to select his own yat-tub, and is of course shrewd 
enough to decide upon some fish, such as shark or skate, which 
is little relished, and to abstain from which consequently entails 
no exercise of self-deniaP." 

Although I made repeated enquiries amongst the natives of 
both the North and the South Andaman I was not able to 
confirm this observation of Mr Man. It is quite true that if 
a certain food is observed to disagree with a child he or she 
is taught to avoid that food for the rest of life, but it is not 
necessary for every person to have some forbidden food. Many 
men told me that they were under no such prohibition and 
might eat any food they liked, apart from the restrictions on 
special occasions. On a minor point it may be noted that skate 
and even shark are not by any means so little relished as the 
statement of Mr Man would imply. The liver of skates and rays, 
and even the liver of sharks is rather regarded as a delicacy. 

I noticed on several occasions that men would not eat certain 
foods when they were away from their own part of the islands. 

^ Man, op. cit. p. 354. Mr Man adds in a note that " it is believed that Puluga 
would punish severely any person who might be guilty of eating his yat-tub, either by 
causing his skin to peel off (wainyake) or by turning his hair white and flaying him 
alive." On Puluga see later, Chaps, in and iv. 


Thus one man of the North Andaman told me that he would not 
eat dugong when he was with me in the South Andaman. 
Another said that though he would eat the fish komar when he 
was at home, he would not eat it when he was in a strange place, as 
at the Settlement of Port Blair, for fear that it would make him ill. 

In the North Andaman I was told that when a dugong 
is caught and the people feast on it they do not leave the 
camp till some hours after the meat is all finished, either to 
go fishing or hunting. The reason they give for this is that the 
spirits of the jungle and the sea may smell them, attracted by 
the odour of the food they have eaten and may cause them to be 
ill. They therefore remain in the camp and eat up all the dugong 
and do not venture out till they begin to feel hungry and must 
go in search of food, I believe that the same custom is observed 
in the South Andaman also. 

A few other customs connected with food may be mentioned 
here. There is only one way in which a turtle may be killed \ 
It must be laid on its back with its head pointing towards 
the open sea, and a skewer of wood is then thrust through 
the eye-socket into the brain. The natives say that if a turtle 
were killed in any other way than this, the meat would be " bad," 
i.e., uneatable. 

Turtle meat may only be cooked on a fire of the wood of the 
Hibiscus tiliaceus. 

A pig is killed as it runs, without ceremony, but there is 
one special way in which it must be cut up. The pig is first 
disembowelled, and the joints of the legs are severed. The 
abdominal cavity is then filled with leaves, of which only certain 
special kinds are used. It is placed on a fire and roasted whole, 
and is then cut up. Should the carcase be cut up by any other 
than the traditional method, the natives believe that the meat 
would be " bad," and they would not eat it. 

A number of beliefs relating to vegetable foods will be 
mentioned in the next chapter. 

In several of the ceremonies described in this chapter it 
will be noticed that the weeping of relatives and friends occurs 

^ Turtle are captured alive by means of harpoons, and may be kept alive several 
days before they are killed and eaten. 


as an essential part of the ceremony. The female relatives 
of a youth or girl who is being initiated come and weep over 
him or her at the turtle-eating ceremony. Their friends weep 
over, or with, the mourners at the dance at the end of mourning. 
The friends of a bride and bridegroom weep over them when they 
are married. The friends and relatives weep over a corpse before 
it is buried and over the bones when they are recovered. In 
all cases it is real weeping. The man or woman sits down 
and wails or howls, and the tears stream down his or her 
face. On one occasion I asked the natives to show how it 
was done and two or three of them sat down and were 
immediately weeping real tears at my request. The weeping in 
this way is really a ceremony or rite. When two friends or 
relatives meet who have been separated from one another for 
a few weeks or longer, they greet each other by sitting down, 
one on the lap of the other, with their arms around each other's 
necks, and weeping and wailing for two or three minutes till they 
are tired. Two brothers greet each other in this way, and so do 
father and son, mother and son, mother and daughter, and 
husband and wife. When husband and wife meet, it is the man 
who sits on the lap of the woman. When two friends part from 
one another, one of them lifts up the hand of the other towards 
his mouth and gently blows on it. 

Reference has already been made in this chapter to a number 
of customs relating to personal names. It will be Useful to bring 
together the scattered references, and give a general account 
of the whole matter. 

Every Andaman Islander has a personal name that is given 
to him or her before birth, and which we may speak of as 
the birth-name. As soon as a woman realises that she is 
pregnant, she and her husband begin to think of a name for the 
child. The name is selected by the parents, but the suggestions 
of their friends and relatives are always considered. It is 
regarded as a compliment to name the child after some man 
or woman. Sometimes a man may request the parents that 
the child shall be named after him, and such a request is rarely, 
if ever, refused. The names given before birth are of course 
applicable to both sexes, there being no difference between 


the names of men and those of women. There are a considerable 
number of names in common use, but some of them are more 
popular at a given time and place than others. It therefore 
happens that there are several persons, both men and women, 
bearing the same name. 

Each of the names in common use has a meaning, but it 
is not always easy to obtain an adequate and accurate explana- 
tion of the meaning from the natives themselves^ In a certain 
number the derivation is obvious. Many names are the names 
of objects such as trees, fish or other animals, or even such 
objects as rope or mats. A few examples from the North Anda- 
man are : — 


Mucuna sp., a plant with edible beans. 


Hibiscus tiliaceus. 


a tree with edible nuts. 


Dioscorea sp. 






a stone. 


a knife. 


the oriole. 

In the case of a number of names it is not possible to 
discover with certainty the derivation, and the statements of the 
natives regarding them do not always agree. Such names in 
the North Andaman, with their meanings as stated by the 
natives, are : — 

Kea one who turns in his sleep. 

Boico one who wrestles. 

Elpe one who comes and goes. 

Kijeri one who walks backwards and forwards. 

Ninii one who catches hold. 

Some time after a child is born it is given a nick-name. 
Nick-names may be given at any time of life, and some persons 
may have several nick-names given to them at different times. 
New nick-names are from time to time invented, but there are 

^ Mr M. V. Portman gives a list of personal names in use in the South Andaman 
in his Notes on the Languages of the South Andaman Group of Tribes, p. 70. The 
' derivations of many of the names as there given, are, however, of doubtful accuracy. 




a certain number of recognized names from which a choice 
is usually made. A few examples from the North Andaman 
are : — 

Ra-fot-betc pig's hair. 

Renya-cope much baggage, or many possessions. 

Poico-totno the wood (literally flesh) of the Sterculia {poico) tree. 

Lau-tei spirit blood. 

Luremo rope. 

Remu-toi a piece of iron. 

Cokbi-ciro turtle liver. 

Tarenjek angry. 

During childhood boys and girls are addressed by either 
the birth-name or the nick-name. 

When a girl reaches the age of puberty she receives a new 
name. This is one of a limited number of names, each of which 
is the name of a tree or plant. The name given to the girl 
is that of the tree or plant that is in flower at the time of her 
first menstruation. 

There is a succession of trees and plants flowering one after 
another throughout the year. The natives describe the different 
parts of the year by reference to the plants in flower at the time. 
The plants selected as typical of the different seasons all have 
flowers from which the native bees make honey. Each of them 
has a distinctive scent and gives to the honey made from it 
a distinctive flavour. The flower-names are given below in Aka- 
Bea and Aka-Jeru. 

Aka-Bea Aka-Jeru 

Cilipa Celibi From the middle of November to the middle of 


Moda Muhii \ 

Ora Okor 

Jidga From the middle of February to the middle of 

Yere Jeru / May, in order. 

Pataka Botek 

Balya Pulin 1 

Rece Re \ 

- ^ 7 ^ From the middle of May to the end of August. 

Cagara Cokoro ] 

Carapa Carap 

Cenra Torok? [ September, October and the first half of November. 

Vulu Jilt 


From the time that a girl receives her flower-name her birth- 
name and nick-name fall entirely out of use. No one would 
address an unmarried girl by any name except the flower-name. 
This continues until some time after the girl is married. Properly 
speaking a woman should be known by her flower-name from 
the advent of puberty until after the birth of her first child. In 
these days of childless women the flower-name drops out of use 
after a few years of married life. After the birth of her first 
child the woman is known by her birth-name or by a nick-name. 
Thus a woman who was named before her birth Kaba (from 
kabal, a species of mangrove) was called by that name until 
puberty ; thereafter she was called Jili (her flower-name) until 
the birth of her first child ; after this event she is again called 
Kaba, and no one would think of addressing her as Jili. A 
woman named Ele (lightning) at birth was known by this name 
until puberty, and thereafter was called Botek. When I knew 
her she had been married for three years or so, but had not had 
a child. A few of the younger men and women addressed her as 
Ele, but the older people still called her Botek. If she should 
bear a child, the name Botek v^oVi\(^ fall entirely out of use and she 
would be known as Ele by both her juniors and her seniors. 

In the case of a boy there is nothing corresponding to the 
flower-names of girls. He continues to be known by his birth- 
name and his nick-name from the time he is born until he dies. 
During adolescence a youth has to pass through certain cere- 
monies of initiation as described in the present chapter. At the 
turtle-eating ceremony the youth is given a new name, of the 
nature of a nick-name. The name given in this way is never 
used either in addressing the youth or in speaking of him. It is 
possible that he also receives a new name on the occasion of the 
pig-eating ceremony, but of this I am not sure. Though girls 
pass through the same ceremonies as boys, I did not discover 
whether or not they also are given new names on these 

Names are used freely in speaking of and to one another. 
An older person always speaks of or to the younger one by the 
name alone. When a younger person is speaking to an older 
one it is customary and polite to use one of the terms of address, 


either by itself, or prefixed to the name of the person spoken to, 
as Maia Buio, Mimi Kaba, etc. A native generally hesitates to 
tell his own name, and if asked the question "What is your 
name ? " often asks a bystander to give the required information. 
There is, however, no hesitation about mentioning the name of 
any other person, except under certain special conditions. 

There are certain occasions when the name of a man or 
woman is temporarily avoided. After the death of a relative 
and during the period of mourning, a mourner's name is not 
mentioned, either in speaking to him or of him. There are a 
few terms that may be used instead. One who has lost a parent 
is addressed as Bolok, one who has lost a brother or sister as 
Ropuc. For a short time before and after the birth of a child 
the names of the father and mother are not mentioned. A bride 
and bridegroom are not addressed or spoken of by name for a 
short period after their marriage, though if their names be A and 
B there seems to be no harm in referring to A as " the husband 
of B," or to B as "the wife of A." During the initiation cere- 
monies through which every boy and girl must pass, the name of 
the initiate is avoided. Thus on the occasion of the turtle-eating 
ceremony or the pig-eating ceremony, during the few days the 
ceremony lasts and for a few weeks afterwards, the youth or girl 
is never addressed or spoken of by name, but is referred to as 
Kimil. During the ceremony that takes place on the occa- 
sion of the advent of puberty, and for some weeks after, a girl 
is not spoken of or to either by her birth-name or her flower- 
name, but is called Toto. When a boy, in the Northern tribes, 
has the scars made on his back, which show him to be no longer 
a child, his name is avoided for a few weeks and he is called 

The name of a dead man or woman is not mentioned during 
the period of mourning, which lasts for some months after the 

In the preceding portions of the chapter reference has been 
made several times to the ornamentation of the body with clay 
and pigment. In the Great Andaman three different substances 
are used for painting the body. These are (i) a common clay 
of which different specimens are gray, yellow or pink, called odu 


in Aka-Jeru and og in Aka-Bea ; (2) a fine white pipe-clay which 
is rarer than the common clay and is more highly prized, called 
tol or tol-odu in Aka-Jeru and tala-og in Aka-Bea ; (3) a red 
pigment made by mixing burnt oxide of iron with animal or 
vegetable fat or oil, called keyip in Aka-Jeru and kjiob in 

The common clay {pdii) is used in three different ways. 
After the death of a relative a man or woman smears himself 
all over with this clay and plasters it on his head. From this 
custom a person who is mourning for a dead relative is called 
aka-odu in Aka-Jeru or aka-og in Aka-Bea. The same clay is 
used at a certain stage of the initiation ceremonies, as described 
above, being spattered over the initiate in the turtle-eating and 
pig-eating ceremonies. The third and most common use of this 
clay is to decorate the bodies of men and women with patterns 
called (in Aka-Jerti) era-puli. These patterns are always made 
by the women, who decorate each other and their male relatives. 
The clay is mixed with water in a wooden dish or a shell and 
the mixture is applied to the body with the fingers. There is 
an almost indefinite variety in the patterns employed, although 
there are a certain number of what may be called usual designs. 
Each woman vies with others in her endeavours to produce 
some novelty of detail in her designs, and a successful innovation 
is immediately copied by others. I was able to watch the rise 
and development and ultimate disappearance of " fashions " in 
this connection in one of the camps of the North Andaman. 

The design is made in one of two ways. It may, in some 
cases, be formed by painting with the finger on the body, that is 
by tracing white (or gray) lines on a black surface. A design of 
this kind is shown on the back of the man on the right in the 
photograph of Plate XI. On the other hand, an equally 
common method is to cover a part of the body with an even 
smear of clay and then to scrape it away either with the fingers 
or with a small fish-bone or with a little instrument made of 
small strips of bamboo, so as to leave a design of black lines 
where the skin shows through the smeared clay. Two not very 
striking designs of this kind are shown in Plates IX and X. 
As a rule the designs are more or less symmetrical, the right 

Plate XI 












and the left sides of the body being treated alike, but in a few 
cases different patterns are made on the two sides, and I have 
seen a man with one side of his body painted and the other not. 
The painting may cover the whole of the body and limbs with 
the exception of the hands and feet, or it may be confined to the 
front and back of the trunk, or it may be on the front only. 
The face is often painted, the designs being made with greater 
care than those on the body. 

These patterns are made in the afternoon after the men 
return from their day's hunting, and always either just before or 
just after a meal. 

If a man be asked what pattern he is painted with, he replies 
by mentioning the food that he has just eaten. A man who has 
been eating turtle will say that the painting on his body is 
cokbi-f era-puli, turtle pattern, while if he has been eating pork 
he will call it ra-t'era-pult, pig pattern. There is not, however, 
a strict uniformity in the use of particular patterns in connection 
with special foods. When the whole camp has been feasting on 
turtle many different and (apparently) unrelated designs are to 
be seen on the bodies of the men and women, I did not find it 
possible, even after a study of the matter, to distinguish by 
means of the design a man who has been eating turtle from one 
who has been eating pork. There is one design, or group of 
closely related designs, that seemed to be based on the pattern 
of the plates on a turtle's carapace. A pattern of this distinctive 
kind was never, so far as my experience went, used except after 
eating turtle. Other patterns, however, which were used after 
eating turtle, did not seem to me to be related in any way to 
what I may call the specific turtle pattern. In some of the 
patterns used after eating pork I noticed a tendency to make 
use of vertical lines or bands on the back and chest. There 
may be a connection here with the longitudinal markings on 
the back of the wild pig. 

Of special patterns I was only able to discover two. One of 
these is called kimil-f era-ptdi and is only used to paint a person 
who is aka-kimil, i.e., who has just been through one of the 
initiation ceremonies. This pattern is shown on the back of 
a man in the photograph reproduced as Plate XI (the second 


figure from the left). Another special pattern is called toto-fera- 
puli {Pandanus pattern), and is used, I believe, to decorate a girl 
after the ceremony at her first menstruation. 

The fine white clay called tol-odu in Aka-Jeru is used in 
a different way and on different occasions. When it is used to 
ornament the body it is always applied in one customary pattern. 
The name of this pattern in Aka-Jeru is qr-cubi-t' era-bat, from 
the name of a species of snake, gr-cubi. Exactly the same name 
is used in A-Pucikwar, wara-cupi-l' ar-par. Mr Man gives the 
Aka-Bea name as jobo-tartaya, from jobo the name for snake in 
general. A man decorated with this " snake pattern," as it may 
be called, is shown in Plate XII, and a pattern of the same kind 
is shown on the head of the man in Plate xiii. The pattern 
is built up of zig-zag lines. They are made by taking a little of 
the clay mixed with water between the thumb and first finger ; by 
a movement of the thumb the space between the nail and the skin 
of the finger is filled with the clay, and the end of the finger is 
then applied to the skin so that it leaves a short and fine line of 
clay. A zig-zag line is thus built up of short lines each a finger's 
breadth in length. A second line is then added, not parallel to 
the first, but opposed to it, so that the two lines together form 
a row of lozenges. A third and sometimes a fourth or fifth line 
are similarly added. As shown in Plate XII the lines of pattern 
are carried down the front of the body, down the sides of the 
arms, and down the front of the legs, and they are similarly 
worked on the back of the body, and the back of the legs. The 
face also is decorated. These patterns are made by the women. 
It is one of the duties of a wife to decorate her husband in this 
way when occasion requires. 

The only reason that the natives give for ornamenting them- 
selves in this way is that it makes them " look well." On the 
occasion of a big dance many of the performers are thus 
ornamented. This is always so at the dances held when two 
or more local groups meet together. There are certain special 
occasions, already mentioned in this chapter, when the use of 
the "snake pattern" is required by custom. One of these is the 
dance at the end of mourning. During the period of mourning 
the mourners are forbidden to make use of this form of decoration. 

Plate XII 

A young man decorated with white clay in 
readiness for a dance 

Plate XIII 

A man with a pattern of white clay on his face 


The same pattern is used to decorate a bride and bridegroom 
after their marriage. In the initiation ceremonies the youth or 
girl is decorated in this way before the dances at the turtle- 
eating and pig-eating ceremonies. The> same pattern is also 
made on a corpse before burial. 

In all these cases the whole body is decorated. On less 
ceremonial occasions, such as an ordinary dance when there 
are no visitors of importance in the camp, a man frequently has 
his face alone decorated with white clay, as in the photograph 
of Plate XIII. 

The third kind of material used for painting the body is red 
paint. This is applied in two different ways. When a man or 
woman is ill he or she is generally to be seen with some part of 
his body smeared with red paint. For colds and coughs the 
chest and neck are painted. In fevers red paint is smeared on 
the upper lip. Besides the medical use of red paint, if we may 
call it so, there is a ceremonial use, the pigment being used in 
combination with white clay, lines of red paint being applied 
to the body between the lines of clay of the snake pattern. It 
is used in this way to decorate the body of a dead person for 
burial, and on ceremonial occasions such as the dance at the end 
of mourning and the dances in connection with the initiation 

Most of the ornaments worn at various times by the Andaman 
Islanders have a ceremonial or a magical purpose. The only 
things worn by men that can be considered to have a utilitarian 
value are the belt of rope and the necklet of string. The belt 
may be a plain piece of rope, or it may be ornamented with the 
yellow skin of a species of Dendrobiufn. It serves as a receptacle 
in which the natives carry such things as adzes, fish, roots, or 
even arrows. It is the one object that is constantly worn by 
men. The string necklet is simply a length of thin string 
tied round the neck. It serves as a means of carrying a' knife 
and skewer. The knife, in former days made of a slip of cane, 
but in these times from a piece of scrap iron, is attached to a 
skewer oi Areca wood by a short length of rope or stout string. 
By sliding either the knife or the skewer under the necklet 
at the back of the neck the double implement hangs securely in 


a position where it is not likely to get lost when running through 
the jungle, and where it is immediately accessible when wanted. 
The necklet also serves as a means of carrying bees'-wax, which 
is in constant use amongst the natives, a small ball of the 
wax being attached to one of the ends of the string of which the 
necklet is made. 

As a rule, in everyday life, the men wear only a belt, or 
a belt and necklace. Those natives who visit the Settlement of 
Port Blair have been required by the European officers to wear 
a strip of cloth over the genitals. It has now become the rule 
to wear such a loin cloth whenever they are in the neighbourhood 
of a European. This, however, is a modern custom, and in 
former times the men went freely with no covering whatever, as 
do the inhabitants of the Little Andaman at the present time. 
As showing the extent to which the natives have been influenced 
in this matter by outside opinion, it may be mentioned that 
at the present day many of the younger men, particularly 
those who have been brought up at Port Blair, regard it as 
very immodest to be seen without some covering over the 

On ceremonial occasions, such as the dance at the end of 
mourning, or a big dance-meeting, the men put on a number 
of ornaments. A common costume on such occasions consists 
of a belt, necklace, bracelets, and garters of netting and Dentalium 
shell. A belt and necklace of this kind are to be seen in 
Plate V, and garters are worn by the woman in Plate IX. 
An alternative costume for men consists of a set of ornaments of 
Pandanus leaf (belt, chaplet, bracelets and garters), decorated 
with Dentalium and other shells. Garters of this kind are shown 
in Plate Xll. 

Other objects are worn by the natives for magical purposes. 
Chief amongst these are the strings made of human bones which 
are worn to prevent and cure sickness. The bones are attached 
to a length of rope, and this is generally decorated with shells or 
with Dendrobitim skin. These strings of bones are worn most 
commonly as chaplets, necklaces or belts, but they may also 
be made into garters and bracelets. The bones of animals, such 
as pig, turtle, dugong, etc., are treated in exactly the same way 


as human bones, and ornaments made of them are commonly 

There are a number of other ornaments that are commonly 
worn, not only on ceremonial occasions, which, unlike the strings 
of human bones, do not obviously have a magical purpose. 
Such are necklaces made of various kinds of shells, and of 
mangrove seeds. At the present time the natives obtain beads 
from Port Blair and make ornaments of these. 

The ordinary costume of the women is different from that 
of the men. Every woman and girl wears at least one belt 
of Pandamis leaf. There is one kind of belt that is always worn 
by married women and which may not be worn by unmarried 
girls. There is another kind of belt that may only be worn 
by unmarried girls. The women of the Southern tribes wear 
a bundle of leaves of the Mimnsops littoralis laid one over 
another suspended from the front of the belt so as to cover 
the pudenda. In the Northern tribes it was formerly the custom 
for the women to wear a similar apron of the leaves of a plant 
called cainyo, and over this they also wore a tassel of shredded 
palm-leaf stem {kord). Within recent years the Northern tribes 
have given up their own custom in this matter and have adopted 
the custom of the Southern tribes. 

Women often wear round the neck a piece of string similar to 
that worn by the men, but as they do not carry knives it does 
not serve the same purpose. It is more usual for a woman 
to wear a necklace of some sort. Nowadays they are rather 
fond of necklaces of beads which they obtain from the Settlement 
at Port Blair. In former times different kinds of shells were 
used, such as the Dentalium octogonum. 

With the exception that men wear the belt of rope, and 
women wear the belt of Pandanus leaf and the apron of leaves, 
there is no difference between the ornaments worn by men and 
by women. On the occasion of a dance or other ceremony 
a woman may wear any of the objects described as being worn 
by men on such occasions. They also wear in the same way 
strings of human or animal bones. 

One object which would seem to have a purely utilitarian 
purpose is the sling used for carrying children (called in Aka- 


Jeru cibd). This object, however, seems to have its ceremonial 
uses also. In one of the initiation ceremonies that I saw, the 
man who was officiating wore such a sling round his shoulders 
during the ceremony. 

In the earlier parts of this chapter reference has been made 
several times to the dance of the Andaman Islanders. For the 
natives the dance is both a means of enjoyment and also a 
ceremony. The period of mourning for the dead is brought 
to a close by a dance, in which all the mourners join. As will 
be shown later, a dance was generally held before a fight, in 
former times when fights occurred. The ceremony by which 
two hostile local groups fnade peace with one another was a 

In the initiation ceremonies there are special dances, which 
have already been described, in connection with the pig-eating 
and turtle-eating ceremonies. With the exception of these 
special dances, and the peace-making dance to be described 
later, there is only one kind of dance in any given tribe. Thus 
the dance at the end of mourning, or before setting out on an 
attack on enemies, is in all essentials exactly the same as the 
dance in which the natives indulge when the day's hunting 
has been successful and the evening is fine. 

The time for dancing, except in connection with certain 
ceremonies, is at night, after the evening meal. The dance takes 
place on the open ground in the centre of the village. This 
is swept clean by the women and the younger men. One or two 
fires are lighted, and little heaps of resin are placed in convenient 
situations to provide lights. These have to be replenished from 
time to time as the dance proceeds. Near one end of the 
dancing ground is placed a sounding-board, upon which it is the 
duty of one man to beat time with his foot. A sounding-board 
is a piece of wood somewhat of the shape of a large shield, 
cut from the hard Pterocarpus tree. One is shown in Plate VI. 
Behind the sounding-board, or a little to one side of it, the 
women, who form the chorus, sit in a row, with their legs 
stretched out in front of them, facing the dancing-ground. The 
men who intend to dance sit or stand round the edge of the 
space reserved for the dance. 


When all is ready a man who has volunteered to sing the 
first song takes his stand at the sounding-board, and sings his 
song through. When he reaches the chorus the women take 
it up and repeat it after him, and as they do so each woman 
marks time by clapping her hands on the hollow formed by her 
thighs, the legs being crossed one over the other at the ankle. 
The singer continues to sing, thus leading the chorus, and at the 
same time marks the time of the song by beating on the 
sounding-board with his foot. As soon as the chorus begins the 
dancers begin to dance. The step of each dancer is the same, 
but there is very little attempt to form a figure. When the 
singer and the chorus get tired, the singing ceases, but the man 
at the sounding-board continues to mark time for the dancers. 
The singer repeats his song several times, and he may sing 
several songs, each repeated several times. When he gets tired 
he is relieved by another man. In a dance that lasts for any 
time, one singer succeeds another, and the singing and dancing 
are kept up continuously, sometimes for five or six hours. 

The above description applies to all the tribes of the Great 
Andaman, but there are some differences between the four tribes 
of the North Andaman, and the tribes of the Middle and South 

, In the North Andaman the song is sung through once from 
beginning to end by the singer, and is then repeated three or 
four times by the chorus. In the South Andaman each song 
consists of one verse and a refrain, if we may speak of them thus. 
The singer sings the verse and the refrain, and then the refrain 
only is repeated an indefinite number of times by the chorus. 

In the dance of the Southern tribes, each dancer dances 
alternately on the right foot or on the left. When dancing on the 
right foot the first movement is a slight hop with the right foot, then 
the left foot is raised and brought down with a backward scrape 
along the ground, then another hop on the right foot. These 
three movements, which occupy the time of two beats of the 
song, are repeated until the right leg is tired, and the dancer 
then changes the movement to a hop with the left foot, followed 
by a scrape with the right and another hop with the left. The 
time of the movement is as follows, the upper line being the 

B. A. 9 




rhythm of the dance, while the lower line shows the beats of the 
song, which is marked on the sounding-board and by the 
clapping of the women. 

' r 

1 1 


h r- 1 


r r 

r r 

The body of the dancer is bent slightly forward from the hips, 
the legs being flexed at the knees and the back being curved 
well inwards. There are several ways of holding the hands and 
arms, one of the commonest being to hold the arms outstretched 
in front on a level with the shoulders, while the thumb and 
forefinger of one hand are interlocked with those of the other. 
When a man does not wish to cease altogether from dancing 
but desires to have a short rest, he marks the time by raising 
each heel alternately from the ground. As a man dances he 
remains in one spot for a short time, and then, still continuing 
the same step, moves for a yard or two around the circle of 
the dancing ground. Every now and then a dancer is to be seen 
trotting from one position to another across the dancing ground, 
abandoning the step of the dance, but still keeping time to 
the song. 

The Northern tribes have now adopted the same kind of 
dance as the tribes of the South, but formerly their dance 
was slightly different. There was a little more attempt at 
forming a figure, the dancers moving for the most part in a 
circle, some in one direction and others in the other. The 
step was as follows : a step forward with the right foot, a hop on 
the right foot, a scrape with the left, then another hop with 
the right, a step forward with the left foot, a hop with the 
left, a scrape with the right and a hop with the left. The rhythm 
is as follows : — 


1 1 

^ fe 

The lower line shows the beats on the sounding-board. 

Some of the dancers occasionally break into the regular 
Southern step. A dancer sometimes changes from the usual 


step to another called kqi, in which each foot is alternately struck 
on the ground and scraped backwards. Other slight variations 
of the movement may be introduced. 

In both the Southern and the Northern dance each dancer 
pleases himself as to the direction in which he moves, and 
the step that he adopts at any given moment. All the dancers, 
however independently of one another they dance, keep strict 
time to the music. 

Women do not, as a rule, join in the ordinary dances held in 
the evening. Their share in the entertainment consists of 
forming the chorus. When they do dance, as they do on certain 
occasions, such as the dance at the end of mourning, their step is 
different from that of the men. In the Southern tribes the 
female dancer stands at one spot with knees flexed and lifts her 
heels alternately from the ground in time to the music, thus 
producing a slight swaying or swinging motion of the hips. 
After dancing thus at one spot for a few moments, she moves 
forward a few steps to a new position, keeping time to the music 
in all her movements, and then repeats the same performance. 
The arms are swung in time to the dance, or else are held before 
the breast with one wrist crossed over the other. 

In the Northern tribes the common dance of the women is a 
sort of modification of that of the men. A woman advances 
across the ground in regular time, but at every third step 
she gives a peculiar little hop which has something of the effect 
of a bobbing curtsey. The time is as follows : — 

r 1 


1 and r standing for left and right foot, and the accent indicating 
the hop or curtsey. Every now and then a dancer stops and 
remains at one spot, alternately scraping each foot backwards, 
holding her knees flexed, and swinging both arms together. 

The ordinary dance of the Andamanese, as described above, 
must always be accompanied by a song, and the purpose of every 
song is to serve as the accompaniment to a dance. Every man 



composes his own songs. No one would ever sing (at a dance) 
a song composed by any other person. There are no traditional 
songs. Women occasionally compose songs, but I never heard 
a woman sing at a dance except in the chorus. 

Every man composes songs, and the boys begin to practise 
themselves in the art of composition when they are still young, 
A man composes his song as he cuts a canoe or a bow or as 
he paddles a canoe, singing it over softly to himself, until 
he is satisfied with it. He then awaits an opportunity to sing it 
in public, and for this he has to wait for a dance. Before 
the dance he takes care to teach the chorus to one or two of 
his female relatives so that they can lead the chorus of women. 
He sings his song, and if it is successful he repeats it several 
times, and thereafter it becomes part of his repertory, for 
every man of any age has a repertory of songs that he is 
prepared to repeat at any time. If the song is not successful, if 
the chorus and dancers do not like it, the composer abandons it 
and does not repeat it. Some men are recognized as being more 
skilful song-makers than others. 

The songs all deal with everyday subjects such as hunting or 
cutting a canoe. The important thing about a song is not its 
sense, but its sound, i,e,, its rhythm and melody. A translation 
of an Akar-Bale song, which is quite typical, is " Poio, the son of 
Main Golat, wants to know when I am going to finish my canoe. 
He comes every day. That is why I make haste to get it 
launched as soon as possible," Another on the same subject 
runs : " Knots are very hard to cut with an adze. They blunt 
the edge of the adze. How hard I am working cutting these 
knots." The singer here refers to the cutting of a canoe, A 
number of songs in the native languages with translations, are 
given by Mr Portman^ To these the reader may refer for 
further information. 

According to the statements of the natives it was formerly 
the custom to have a dance before setting out to a fight. There 
was no special war-dance, the warriors joining in an ordinary 
dance such as has just been described. Those who intended 

^ Portman, Notes on the Languages of the South Andaman Group of Tribes, 
pp. 166—188. 

Plate XVIII 









to take part in the attack on their enemies, i.e., all the able- 
bodied adult males, decorated themselves with red paint and 
white clay, and put on ornaments of Pandanus leaf or netting 
and shells. Each man held in his hands or placed in his belt or 
head-dress plumes of shredded TetrantJiera wood (called celmo in 
Aka-Jeru, uj in Aka-Bed). These plumes of shredded wood are 
now often worn or carried in an ordinary dance, but I believe 
that in former times they were the distinctive sign of a war- 
dance. To make them, a short length of the wood is taken 
(generally a piece of an old broken pig-arrow) and the wood 
is carefully shredded with a Cyrena shell, care being taken 
not to break any of the longitudinal fibres. One end is then tied 
with a piece of string or fibre. Similar plumes are made from 
Pandanus wood, and are carried or worn in a similar manner. 

When the attacking party set out from their village each man 
wears a plume of shredded Tetranthera wood thrust into the 
back of his belt. They rub their bows with the shredded wood, 
and say that this has the effect of making their own bows shoot 
well and those of their enemies shoot badly. 
VY If a man kills another in a fight between two villages, or 
in a private quarrel, he leaves his village and goes to live by 
himself in the jungle, where he must stay for some weeks, or 
even months. His wife, and one or two of his friends may 
live with him or visit him and attend to his wants. For some 
weeks the homicide must observe a rigorous tabu. He must not 
handle a bow or arrow. He must not feed himself or touch any 
food with his hands, but must be fed by his wife or a friend. He 
must keep his neck and upper lip covered with red paint, and 
must wear plumes of shredded Tetranthera wood (celmd) in his 
belt before and behind, and in his necklace at the back of his 
neck. If he breaks any of these rules it is supposed that the 
spirit of the man he has killed will cause him to be ill. At 
the end of a few weeks the homicide undergoes a sort of purifica- 
tion ceremony. His hands are first rubbed with white clay 
{tql-odu) and then with red paint. After this he may wash 
his hands and may then feed himself with his hands and may 
handle bows and arrows. He retains the plumes of shredded 
wood for a year or so. 


In the North Andaman, and possibly in the South also, there 
was a ceremony by which two hostile local groups made peace 
with one another. When the two groups have agreed to make 
friends and bring their quarrel to an end, arrangements are made 
for this ceremony. The arrangements are made through the 
women of the two parties. A day is fixed for the ceremony, 
which takes place in the country of the group that made the 
last attack. In the village of this group the dancing ground 
is prepared, and across it is erected what is called a koro-cop. 
Posts are put up in a line, to the tops of these is attached a 
length of strong cane, and from the cane are suspended bundles 
of shredded palm-leaf {kord). The appearance of this con- 
struction may be seen from the photograph reproduced in 
Plate XIX. The women of the camp keep a look-out for the 
approach of the visitors. When they are known to be near 
the camp, the women sit down on one side of the dancing ground, 
and the men take up positions in front of the decorated cane. 
Each man stands with his back against the koro-cop, with his 
arms stretched out sideways along the top of it. None of them 
has any weapons. 

The visitors, who are, if we may so put it, the forgiving party, 
while the home party are those who have committed the last 
act of hostility, advance into the camp dancing, the step being 
that of the ordinary dance. The women of the home party 
mark the time of the dance by clapping their hands on their 
thighs. I was told that the visitors carry their weapons with 
them, but when the dance was performed at my request the 
dancers were without weapons. The visitors dance forward in 
front of the men standing at the koro-cop, and then, still dancing 
all the time, pass backwards and forwards between the standing 
men, bending their heads as they pass beneath the suspended 
cane. The dancers make threatening gestures at the men 
standing at the koro-cop, and every now and then break into 
a shrill shout. The men at the koro stand silent and motionless 
and are expected to show no. sign of fear. 

After they have been dancing thus for a little time, the 
leader of the dancers approaches the man at one end of the koro 
and, taking him by the shoulders from the front, leaps vigorously 

Plate XIX 


















up and down to the time of the dance, thus giving the man 
he holds a good shaking. The leader then passes on to the next 
man in the row while another of the dancers goes through 
the same performance with the first man. This is continued 
until each of the dancers has "shaken" each of the standing 
men. The dancers then pass under the koro and shake their 
enemies in the same manner from the back. After a little 
more dancing the dancers retire, and the women of the visiting 
group come forward and dance in much the same way that 
the men have done, each woman giving each of the men of 
the other group a good shaking. 

When the women have been through their dance the two 
parties of men and women sit down and weep together. 

The two groups remain camped together for a few days, 
spending the time in hunting and dancing together. Presents 
are exchanged, as at the ordinary meetings of different groups. 
The men of the two groups exchange bows with one another. 



The Andaman Islanders believe in the existence of a class 
of supernatural beings which I propose to denote by the term 
" spirits." The native name for these spirits is lau, lao or yau in 
the languages of the North and Middle Andaman, and cauga in 
the South Andaman, While all spirits are denoted together by 
the term lau or eauga, there are certain special classes of spirits. 
There are, for instance, spirits that haunt the jungles of the 
islands. These are called in the North Andaman Ti-miku Lau, 
from the word ti-miku meaning the forest, or more accurately 
"land." (The only land known to the Andamanese is covered 
with forest.) In Aka-Bea the name for these jungle spirits is 
Erem Cauga, the word erem being the equivalent in that language 
of the Northern ti-miku. In the North Andaman the Ti-miku 
Lau are often called Bido Tec Lau, i.e., spirits of the Calamus 
leaf, bido being the name of the Calamus tigrinus. This cane is 
armed with strong thorns, and in some parts of the jungle forms 
absolutely impenetrable thickets. The natives say that the 
spirits haunt these thickets, and hence their name. 

There are other spirits that live in the sea. Although these 
may be included under the term Lau or Cauga, when it is used 
in a general sense, yet there is a special name for the sea spirits, 
Jurua in the North Andaman, and Juruwin in Aka-Bea, The 
Jurua are beings of the same nature as the Ti-miku Lau, with 
the difference that they live in the sea, while the latter live in 
the forest. 

In the South Andaman the natives also speak of another 
class of spirits who live in the sky and are called Morua or 


When an Andamanese man or woman dies he or she becomes J 
a spirit, i.e., a Laii or Caiiga, The bones of a dead person, which 
are dug up after the flesh has decayed, are called Lau toi in the 
North Andaman, toi being the word for " bone." The skull is 
Lau t'e7'-co, from the word er-co meaning "head." Exactly 
similar terms are in use in Aka-Bea, the bones of a dead man- 
being called Cauga ta (spirit bones). 

The Andamanese relate legends, to be described in the next 
chapter, which concern the doings of mythical ancestors. As all 
Andamanese, when they die, become Lau, these ancestors are of 
course included under that term. They are often distinguished 
from the spirits of persons recently dead by being denoted as, 
Lau fer-kuf'o, from the word er-kuro meaning " big," and applied 
to human beings to denote importance of social position. Just 
as a man who occupies a prominent position in his tribe is 
called a "big" man {er-kuro), so the ancestors of the Anda- 
manese legends are called "big" spirits. The Aka-Bea use a 
similar term, Cauga tabaya, to distinguish the ancestors from the 
spirits of ordinary persons. 

The name Lau or Cauga is also applied by the Andamanese 
to the natives of India and Burma whom they see in the Penal 
Settlement of Port Blair. The Aka-Jeru name for the Penal 
Settlement is Lau-{ara-nyu, literally " the village of the spirits." 
At the present time the term Lau or Cauga is not applied to 
Europeans, who are generally spoken of in the North Anda- 
man by the Hindustani word "sahib." Natives of the North 
Andaman told me that in former times (before 1875) they 
applied the term Lau, to Europeans also not distinguishing them 
from other light-skinned aliens. The necessity for distinguishing 
between Asiatics, such as natives of India, and Europeans, has 
only arisen since they have come to have dealings with the Penal 

The term Lau is not applied by the Andamanese to aliens of 
their own race. Nor would it be applied, I believe, to men of 
other black races such as the African negro, I showed th« 
natives photographs of Semang from the Malay Peninsula and 
also of natives of Africa and New Guinea, and in all cases they 
called them Jqrawa, that being the term applied by the Great 


Andaman tribes to the natives of the Little Andaman. On the 
other hand they called Polynesians Lau. 

For many centuries the Andaman Islanders have been 
accustomed to see light-skinned men visit their shores in ships, 
Europeans, natives from the coasts of India, Burma and Malaya, 
and occasionally perhaps Chinese. To these aliens they gave 
the name of Lau, apparently regarding them as visitors from the 
only other world they knew of, the world of spirits \ The clothes 
that these "spirits" wore they called Lau ot-julu, the word ot-julu 
meaning " cold." 

The spirits of the forest and the sea are believed to be 
generally invisible, but there are tales of men and women who 
have seen them, and their personal appearance is sometimes 
described. The descriptions vary considerably from one in- 
formant to another. One of the commonest statements is that 
they are light or white skinned. (The Andamanese vocabulary 
does not allow of any distinction between white and a light gray 
or a light shade of colour.) One man, however, said that the 
forest spirits are black (or dark), while the sea spirits are white 
(or light). I was told several times that the spirits have long 
hair and beards (the Andamanese having, as a rule, no beard, and 
their hair, being frizzy, never growing to any length). Their arms 
and legs are said to be abnormally long, while they have only 
small bodies. Though there is no uniformity in the way in which 
the natives describe the spirits of the jungle and the sea, there is a 
notable tendency to associate them with the grotesque, the ugly, 
and the fearful. There is a common belief that the spirits, both 
of the jungle and of the sea, carry about with them lights, which 
several men and women claim to have seen. 

In reply to the question as to how the spirits of the forest 
and the sea originated, the natives all agree in saying that they 
are the spirits of dead men and women. 

The jungle spirits live in a village (or villages) in the forest. 
There is a belief that mortals wandering by themselves in the 
jungle have been captured by the spirits. Should the captive 

^ A similar custom is found in many savage tribes. Thus in many parts of 
Australia the aborigines call white men by the same name that they apply to the 
spirits of the dead. 


show any fear, my informants said, the spirits would kill him, but 
if he were brave they would take him to their village, detaining 
him for a time, and then releasing him to return to his friends. 
A man to whom such an adventure has happened will be 
endowed for the rest of his life with power to perform magic. 
He will pay occasional visits to his friends the spirits. The 
natives told me of one such man who died not many years ago. 
At irregular intervals he used to wander off into the jungle by 
himself and remain absent for a few hours, sometimes for a day 
or two. He returned to the village after such an absence looking 
strange and wearing ornaments of shredded palm-leaf {koro) 
which he claimed had been placed upon him by the spirits. 

Save for persons who have made friends with them, and have 
thereby become endowed with magical powers, all contact with 
the spirits of the jungle and the sea, or with the spirit of a 
dead man, is dangerous. The spirits are believed to be the 
cause of all sickness and of all deaths resulting from sickness. 
As a man wanders in the jungle or by the sea, the spirits come 
invisibly and strike him, whereupon he falls ill, and may die. 
A man or woman is more likely to be attacked by the spirits 
if he or she is alone, and it is therefore always better to be in 
company when away from the village. The spirits rarely venture 
into the village itself, though they may prowl round it, particu- 
larly at night. They are more dangerous at night than during 
the day. 

There are many objects that are believed to have the power 
of keeping spirits at a distance, and thus of preserving human 
beings from the danger of sickness. Amongst the most im- 
portant of these are fire, arrows, human bones, bees'-wax, and 
red paint. A man or a woman leaving a hut to go only a few 
yards at night will always carry a fire-brand as a protection 
against spirits that may be prowling in the neighbourhood. If 
the night be dark a torch is carried in addition to the fire-stick. 

The Andamanese will never whistle at night, as they believe 
that the noise of whistling would attract spirits. On the other 
hand they believe that singing will keep the spirits away. 

The spirits that haunt the woods and waters of a man's own 
home are regarded as being less dangerous to him than those of 


a country in which he is a stranger. A man of the Aka-Cari 
tribe who was with me in Rutland Island had a cold on his 
chest. He asked me for permission to return to his own 
country, explaining that the spirits of Rutland Island were^ so 
to speak, at enmity with him, and that if he stayed longer he 
would be seriously ill, and perhaps die, while on the other hand, 
the spirits of his own country were friendly towards him, and 
once he was amongst them he would quickly recover. 

There is a belief that the spirits feed on the flesh of dead; 
men and women. The jungle spirits eat those who are buried 
on land, and the Jurua devour those who are drowned or other- 
wise lost in the sea. 

Mr Man's account of the spirits of the jungle and sea con- 
tains an important error, which needs to be pointed out. He 
writes as though there were only one Erem Cauga (jungle spirit) 
and only one Juruwin (sea spirit), whereas each of these names 
is the name not of a single individual but of a class of super- 
natural beings of which there is an indefinite number. The 
following is Mr Man's account: — Erem-cauga-la, the "evil spirit of 
the woods, has a numerous progeny by his wife Cana Badgi-lola, 
who remains at home with her daughters and younger children, 
while her husband and grown up sons roam about the jungles 
with a lighted torch attached to their left legs, in order that the 
former may injure any unhappy wights who may meet them 
unprotected, and in the dark ; he generally makes his victims ill, 
or kills them by wounding them internally with invisible arrows, 
and if he is successful in causing death, it is supposed that they 
feast upon the raw flesh." "As regards Juruwin, the evil spirit 
of the sea, they say that he too is invisible, and lives in the sea 
with his wife and children, who help him to devour the bodies of 
those who are drowned or buried at sea; fish constitute the 
staple of his food, but he also occasionally, by way of variety, 
attacks the aborigines he finds fishing on the shores or by the 
creeks. The weapon he uses is a spear, and persons who are 
seized with cramp or any sudden illness, on returning from, or 
while on the water are said to have been ' speared ' by Juruwin. 
He has various submarine residences, and boats for travelling 
under the surface of the sea, while he carries with him a net, in 


which he places all the victims, human or piscine, he may 
succeed in capturing ^" 

Mr Portman correctly translates the word Jiiruwin as 
meaning "the spirits of the sea" using the plural and not the 

Further references to the Andamanese beliefs about the spirits 
will be found later in the chapter. It is necessary at this point 
to consider an entirely different class of beings. 

The Andaman Islanders personify the phenomena of nature 
with which they are acquainted, such as the sun and the moon. 
Before relating in detail what could be learnt about their beliefs 
on these matters, it is necessary to call attention to one feature 
of these beliefs. Different statements, not only of different 
informants, but even of the same informant, are often quite 
contradictory. For example, it is sometimes said that lightning 
is a person, and at other times it is said that lightning is a fire- 
brand thrown across the sky by a mythical being named Biliku. 
These two statements, which to all logical thinking are incom- 
patible, are both given, and apparently both equally believed, by 
the same person. Many examples of such contradictions will be 
found in what follows, and it is important to point out their 
existence beforehand. 

About the sun and moon, the most usual statement in all the 
tribes is that the sun is the wife of the moon and the stars are 
their children. In the North Andaman the moon is Maia Dula 
{Aka-Cari) or Maia Cirikli {Aka-Jeru\ the sun is Mimi Diu 
and their children the stars are Catlo, the larger ones, and Katan 
the smaller. Catlo is the name of a species of finely marked 
beetle, and katan is the name of the common fire-fly. Individual 
stars or constellations are not recognized. 

Another version from the same tribes is that the moon {Dula) 
is female, and has a husband named Maia Tok, while the sun 
{Diu or Torodiu) is male. 

In the Aka-Jevu tribe there is a belief that the moon {Maia 
Cirikli) can, when he wishes, turn himself into a pig, and come 
down to earth and feed on the things that the pigs eat. There 

^ Man, op. cit. pp. 158, 159. 

- Portman, Notes on the Languages, etc. p. 183. 


is a legend that on one occasion the moon thus turned himself 
into a pig and came down to earth to eat the cuei fruit. A man 
named Maia Coinyop met the moon (in the form of a pig) in the 
forest, and shot him with an arrow. Cirikli (the moon) took out 
his knife and killed the unfortunate Coinyop, cutting off his head, 
which he left behind, and taking the body up to the sky where 
he ate it. 

In the A-Pucikwar tribe the most common statement is that 
the moon {Puki) is male and that the sun {Puto) is his wife. A 
different statement from the same tribe is that the moon is 
female and is the wife of a being named Tamo. Tonio seems to 
be to some extent identified with the sun. Thus one informant 
said that it is Tonio who sends the fine weather, and that it is he 
who sends the daylight every day. Where Tomo lives, in the 
sky, it is always day and is always fine. When the natives die 
their spirits go up to the sky and live with Tomo. We shall see 
in the next chapter that, according to some of the legends, Tomo 
is the first ancestor of the Andamanese. 

Yet another version is that the moon was made by Tomo out 
of opalescent stone, and it is Tomo who, in some way, regulates 
its passage across the sky. 

A belief about the moon which is found in all the tribes, both 
of the North and the South, is that he will be very angry if there 
is any fire, or any bright light, visible when he rises in the 
evening shortly after sundown. At such times the natives are 
careful to cover up their fires so that they only smoulder without 
flame. Mr Man refers to this custom. " From fear of dis- 
pleasing Maia Ogar (Mr Moon), during the first few evenings of 
the third quarter, when he rises after sundown, they preserve 
silence, cease from any work on which they may be engaged — 
even halting should they be travelling — and almost extinguishing 
any light or fire that may be burning. This is owing to the 
belief that he is jealous of attention being distracted to other 
objects than himself at such a time, or of any other light being 
employed than that which he had been graciously pleased to 
afford so abundantly. By the time the moon has ascended a 
few degrees, however, they restore their fires and resume their 
former occupations, as they consider that they have sufficiently 


complied with Maia Ogars wishes and requirements. The 
glowing aspect of the full moon on its first appearance above the 
horizon is supposed to indicate that Maia Ogar is enraged at 
finding some persons neglecting to observe these conciliatory 
measures; there is also an idea that, if he be greatly annoyed, 
he will punish them by withdrawing or diminishing the light of 
his countenanced" 

As regards the waxing and waning of the moon, Mr Man 
says that these are explained by the Aka-Bea "by saying that 
they are occasioned by ' his ' applying a coating of cloud to his 
person by degrees, after the manner of their own use of koiob 
(red paint) and tala-og (white clay) and then gradually wiping 
it off I" In the Aka-Kede tribe the natives say that as Maia 
Cirike (Sir Moon) goes across the sky, his tongue hangs out 
of his mouth, sometimes more, sometimes less, and that it is 
the tongue that is visible, that gives the light. I did not hear 
any explanation of the waxing and waning of the moon in 
the tribes of the North Andaman. In these tribes the new 
moon is called Dtila e-tire, i.e. the "baby moon," the word 
e-tire denoting the young offspring of an animal or a human 

With regard to a lunar eclipse Mr Man writes that " in case 
Maia Ogar should be so ill-advised as permanently to withhold 
his light or render himself in other ways still more disagreeable, 
whenever the moon is eclipsed some persons at once seize their 
bows and twang them as rapidly as possible, thereby producing 
a rattling sound as if discharging a large number of arrows, while 
others commence at once sharpening their rata (arrows). Of 
course this hostile demonstration is never lost upon the moon, 
who does not venture to hurt those who show themselves ready 
to give him so uncomfortable a reception. Their immunity from 
harm on these occasions has given rise to some joking at the 
expense of the luminary in question, for, during the continuance 
of the eclipse, they shout in inviting tones to the hidden orb 
as follows: — Ogar, laden balak ban lebe yidoati! doati! doati! 
(O Moon, I will give you the seed of the balak! show yourself! 
appear ! appear !) This is said derisively, for, although these 

^ Man, op. cit. p. 152. ^ Ibid. p. 160. 


seeds are largely consumed by the pigs, the aborigines do not 
consider them fit for food\" 

It may be noted that the invitation to the moon to eat balak 
seeds is not perhaps derisive, but may be connected with the 
belief that the moon can turn himself into a pig in order to feed 
on the things that pigs eat. 

There was no eclipse of the moon during my stay in the 
islands. The natives of the North Andaman told me that on 
such an occasion they frighten the moon into showing himself 
again by lighting the end of a bamboo arrow-shaft, and shooting 
it from a bow in the direction of the moon. Another custom of 
which they told me is to take plumes of shredded Tetranthera 
wood {cehno or uj^ and blow on them towards the moon. 

Mr Man states that "a solar eclipse alarms them too much to 
allow of their indulging in jests or threats, &c. : during the time 
it lasts they all remain silent and motionless, as if in momentary 
expectation of some calamity I" 

There are several different accounts in the North Andaman 
of the phenomena of day and night. The night is often per- 
sonified and is called Mimi Bat (Lady Night). One yersion is 
that it is she who makes the night while Maia Torodiu makes 
the day. Diu is the name of the sun, and toro-diu really means 
" the full sun " and refers to the middle part of the day when the 
sun is well up in the sky. 

Another Northern version is that the daylight is made by a 
being named Tautqbitatmo who lives in the sky. He shuts 
up the day under a stone every evening and lets it out every 
morning. Of Tautqbitatmo I was told that he is sometimes to 
be seen in the evening sky, but I was not able to discover to 
what natural phenomenon reference was made. I was also 
unable to discover the meaning of the name, which is a com- 
pound, tau being the sky. 

Still another version from the same tribes is that it is a being 
named Maia Cava who makes the daylight. Cava seems to be 
the equivalent of the Tomo of the A-Pucikwar 2ind other Southern 
tribes. He is sometimes said to have been the first ancestor, and 
sometimes the creator, of the Andamanese. He lives in the sky. 

^ Man, oJ>. cit. p. i6o. ^ Ibid. p. i6i. 


Another belief about the night connects it with the spirits. 
The Lau (spirits) in the sky, wrap up the night in a cloth or 
mat. When they unroll the cloth it becomes dark. The natives 
of the North Andaman formerly called cloth lau-ot-julu, from a 
stem -julu meaning "cold." They were only acquainted with 
cloth through seeing it used by the aliens who visited their shores, 
and whom they called spirits {Lau). 

In the North Andaman thunder and lightning are commonly 
personified. The lightning is Ele or Ali, and the thunder is 
Korude or Korule, Some of the natives spoke of Mimi Ele 
(female) and others of Maia Ele (male). He lives in the sky, 
which is regarded as being made of stone (or rock) and is called 
tau-meo (the sky-stone). The lightning is due to his shaking 
his foot. One rather obscure statement was to the effect that 
Ele spends most of his time asleep or lying down and doing 
nothing. When the weather gets bad Lato (a being that I 
could not identify), comes and worries Ele and wakes him up. 
Then Ele gets angry and shakes his leg. This is the lightning. 

Thunder {Korude) also lives in the sky. It is said that he 
makes the thunder by means of a large round stone. One 
account is that he rolls the stone about over the sky. Another 
is that he makes the stone hot, and this produces the thunder. 

An entirely different explanation of thunder and lightning, 
which is found in all the tribes, is that they are made by two 
beings named Tarai and Biliku, to be described later on in this 

I never heard the rain {jicer) spoken of as a person in the 
same way as thunder and lightning. One explanation of rain is 
that the sky-stone {tau-tneo) gets cold, and this turns the mist 
{milite) into rain. Another is that in the sky there is a large 
hollow or pool, which gets filled with water and then overflows. 
Still another version is that the rain is made by a being (or 
beings) named Caitoy, who seems to be female and lives in the 
sky. I could not obtain any satisfactory information about her. 

In all parts of the islands the rainbow is believed to have 
some connection with the spirits of the jungle or of the sea. 
One very common statement is that it is a bridge of cane that 
stretches between this world and the world of departed spirits. 

B. A. lO 


It is along the rainbow that the spirits travel when they visit the 
earth. It is necessary to correct a statement by Mr Portman on 
this matter. In connection with the Aka-Bea word for the 
rainbow, pidga-V ar-cauga, he says " The root pidga (a rainbow) 
must not be confounded with the root pidga 'a cane' or 
'rattan.' The Andamanese have certain legends regarding the 
uses of the rainbow, and these have been hitherto understood 
as referring to ' canes.' Pidga-V ar-cauga means ' the rainbow 
(bridge) by which the spirits (cross) '\" Mr Portman is in error. 
The word pidga means " cane " and the whole word means " the 
cane of the spirits." It is the whole word that is the name of 
the rainbow, and not the word pidga. An exactly similar com- 
pound name for the rainbow exists in each of the languages of 
the Great Andaman. The name of the particular species of 
large cane varies, h€\n^ pidga in Aka-Bea, peta in A-Pucikwar, 
pir in Aka-Jeru, and so on. Apart from the fact that the natives 
themselves say that the rainbow is a " cane," Mr Portman 
would have us believe that in each of the different languages 
there are two exactly similar words, different in the different 
languages, one of which means " cane " and the other " rainbow," 
while there is no connection between the words. Thus Aka-Bea 
would \\2l\& pidga meaning "a kind of cane" and pidga meaning 
" a rainbow." Aka-Jeru would have//r meaning " cane " and//r 
meaning " rainbow." 

The rainbow is generally regarded as an evil omen, being 
believed to be a precursor of sickness. One Aka-Jeru statement 
is that it is made by a being called Tqlitqy and that when it 
appears somebody will be ill. 

The only explanation of the tides that I heard was to the 
effect that they are caused by a fish, a species of Tetrodon, 
called colmo in Aka-Jeru and pit in Aka-Kede, which drinks up 
the water and then lets it out again. 

The Andaman Islands are occasionally visited by earth- 
quakes. An Aka-Kede account of how earthquakes are caused 
is that when a man dies he goes to the spirit world which is 
beneath the earth. The spirits hold a ceremony. My informant 
spoke of the ceremony as Kimil, which is the name of the 

1 Portman, Notes on the Lans^mges of the South Andaman, p. 328. 


initiation ceremonies. At this ceremony they have a dance 
similar to the peace-making dance described in the last chapter, 
but instead of erecting a screen such as is used in that ceremony, 
they make use of the rainbow. As they shake the rainbow in 
dancing this causes earthquakes. The ceremony which newly- 
arrived spirits have to undergo in the world after death is a 
poroto kimil, i.e., the initiate edls poroto {Caryota soboliferd). 

Among the most important of the Andamanese beliefs are 
those relating to the weather and the seasons. These are under 
the control of two beings named Biliku, Bilik or Puluga, and 
Tarai, Teriya, or Daria. There are a certain number of points 
in which the statements of one informant may differ from those 
of another in connection with these two mythical beings, but there 
are also a certain number of points on which there is absolute 
unanimity in all the tribes of the Great Andaman. 

The first belief in which there is entire unanimity is that of 
the connection of Biliku and Tarai with the two chief winds 
that are known in the Andamans. Biliku lives in the north- 
east and is connected with the north-east monsoon. Tarai lives 
in the south-west and is connected with the south-west monsoon. 
The connection is shown in the names of these winds, which are 
as follows : — 


N. E. Wind 

S. W. Wind 

Aka-Cari, Aka-Bo, Aka-Kora, Aka-Jeru 

Biliku boto 

Tarai boto 

Oko-Juwoi, Aka-Kol and A-Pucikwar 

Bilik to 



Puluga toa 



Puluga ta 


In the Northern tribes the word boto means " wind." Biliku 
bote must be translated "the Biliku wind," and Tarai bote is 
similarly "the Tarai wind." It would be incorrect to translate 
the name Biliku boto as "the wind of Biliku" for this would 
be rendered in Aka-Jeru by Biliku ico bote. In A-Pucikwar the 
south-west wind is called Teriya simply, the name of the mythical 
being connected with the wind being used as the name of the 
wind itself, just as is the case with the name Ele (lightning). On 
the other hand the north-east wind is called not Bilik but Bilik 
to. The same thing occurs also in the Akar-Bale and Aka-Bea 

lO — 2 


Mr Portman translates the Aka-Bea term Puluga ta as 
" God's wind," and he adds, in explanation, " Puluga ta means 
* God's wind,' and the reason for the name is not known. Some 
vague ideas regarding the direction of God's dwelling in the sky- 
are the probable origin of the term\" As regards the translation 
of the Andamanese name Puluga by the English " God " more 
will be said later. Leaving that aside, it is important to note 
that Puluga ta does not mean " Puluga' s wind." The word for 
wind in Aka-Bea is given by Mr Portman himself as wul-yUy 
and the Akar-Bale and A-Pucikwav equivalents dx^ poat-ya and 
pote, being forms of the same stem as the Northern bqto. The 
translation of ^^ Puluga' s wind" in A-Pucikwar would be Bilik 
riye pote, hut this is not a phrase that the natives ever use. It 
is not possible to translate " Puluga s wind" accurately in Akar- 
Bale. Puluga poat-ya would mean " Puluga blowing " the -ya 
being a verbal ending. In any case Bilik to, and Puluga toa are 
not to be translated as meaning "Puluga's wind." 

It may be observed, in reference to Mr Portman's statement, 
that the notions of the Andamanese as to the direction of the 
dwelling of Puluga in the sky are very far from vague. The 
natives all agree that Puluga or Biliku lives in the direction 
from which the north-east wind blows, really N.N.E. This is 
shown in geographical names. For example the side of Havelock 
Island that faces north-east is called Puluga-V ar-mugu, meaning 
" the side that faces Pulugal' from ar-mugu meaning " front " or 

There are two matters, then, on which there is absolute 
unanimity in all the tribes of the Great Andaman, one being the 
connection of Biliku (or Puluga) with the north-east and of 
Tarai (or Derid) with the south-west, and the other being the 
connection of these two beings with the winds that blow from 
these two opposite points of the compass. 

The connection of these two beings with winds is shown 
in another way in the A-Pucikwar tribe, where the winds are 
divided into two divisions. One division contains only the 
south-west wind, which is of extreme regularity, and blows 
steadily for about five months in every year. This wind is 

1 Portman, Notes on ike Languages of the South AHda?nan, p. 314. 


called Teriya. The other division contains all the other winds, 
and they are collectively denoted by the term Bilik. They are 
distinguished by names, as Jila Bilik (the east Bilik, ivomjila, 
east) Koico Bilik (the west Bilik), Metepur Bilik, Coliatum Bilik, 
Rartear Bilik, and Koicor-toy Bilik. Here we find the name Bilik 
used not as the name of a single person, but as a common 
name for a class of beings who are the winds personified. The 
same use of the term is found also in the Aka-Kol \xVqq. 

Even in the Akar-Bale tribe something of the same kind is 
found. One Akar-Bale man said that Puluga has two brothers, 
Jila Pubiga (East Puluga) and Koaico Puluga (West Puluga); 
the one sends all the easterly winds and the other all the 
westerly ones. 

In the Andamans the year is divided into two nearly equal 
portions. During the season of the south-west monsoon, which 
lasts from May to September, the wind blows steadily from the 
south-west. This is the rainy season. Violent storms never or 
only very rarely occur during the season of the south-west wind. 
From December to March the wind blows mostly from the 
N.N.E., occasionally changing to E.N.E. or N.E. In the periods 
at the change of the monsoon (from N.E. to S.W. in April and 
May, and from S.W, to N.E. in October and November) the 
wind is variable, and may blow at times from E.S.E. or W.N.W. 

The south-west wind (properly speaking W.S.W.) is identified, 
as we have seen with Tarai {Deria). Although Biliku {Puluga) 
is specially connected with the north-east wind, yet all the winds 
other than the south-west are commonly supposed to be sent 
by Biliku. Thus we have seen that in the A-Pucikwar tribe the 
different winds are named, each of them (with the exception of 
the south-west) being a Bilik. 

It comes about, in this way, that the year is divided into 
two portions, one of which is specially connected with Biliku 
{Puluga), while the other is specially connected with Tarai 
{Deria). These two seasons are not quite of equal length. The 
Tarai season lasts only while the south-west monsoon is blowing, 
which, in an average year, is between four and five months. 
The other seven months are connected with Biliku and are 
divided into three portions, (i) the stormy season of October 


and November, (2) the cold season of December to February, 
and (3) the hot season of March and April. 

There are many points relating to Biliku and Tarai about 
which there is no general agreement amongst the tribes, or, in 
some cases, even within the same tribe. In the North Andaman 
Biliku is regarded as female, and is called Mimi Biliku, while 
Tarai is male and is called Maia Tarai. This is so in all the 
four tribes, Aka-Cari, Aka-Bo, Aka-Kqra and Aka-Jeru. A 
statement that is frequently made by the natives of these tribes 
is that Tarai and Biliku are husband and wife. While this is 
the most common statement, there are, however, other versions 
of the matter. In order to show the lack of uniformity in state- 
ments about Biliku and Tarai in the Northern tribes I reproduce 
a few extracts from my note-books written down exactly as they 
were given to me. 

( 1 ) Biliku is the wife of Tarai and they have a child named 
Perjido. (This statement was made to me a great many times 
in the North Andaman, and may be regarded as the most usual 
form of the belief) 

(2) Biliku is the wife of Tarai. Their children are the sun 
and moon. (Heard only once.) 

(3) The husband of Biliku is Perjido and her children are 
Totaimo, Mite (cicada) and Tarai. 

(4) Biliku is unmarried, but she has a son Perjido, and her 
other children are Toroi, Celene, Cotot, and Cerei. These four 
are the names of birds. 

(5) Biliku is the wife of Tarai. Their children are Toroi, 
Taka, Cotot, Poruatoko, Kelil, Cgpcura, Benye, Biratkoro, Cereo, 
Milidu, Bobelo, Kolo. These are all names of birds. 

(6) Biliku has a husband Toroi (a bird). Tarai has a wife 
Kelil (a bird). 

In the Aka-Kede tribe the most common statement, at any 
rate in the northern part of the tribe, is that Bilika is female, 
and that Tarai is male. One Aka-Kede man, from the southern 
part of the tribe said that Bilika was male. 

In the Aka-Kql and A-Pucikwar tribes Bilik is generally 
spoken of as being male, and Teriya is also male. Other 
versions from these tribes are as follows: — 


(i) Bilik is female and Teriya is her husband. Their 
children are the winds, Coliatum Bilik, Metepitr Bilik, and Woico- 
Varpat Bilik. 

(2) There is a male Bilik and a female Bilik, who are 
husband and wife. Their children are Koicor-toy Bilik, Koico 
Bilik, Jila Bilik, Metepur Bilik, Rartear Bilik, and Teriya. These 
are the winds. 

(3) Bilik is male. His wife is In Caria, and their children 
are Kao (prawn) and Morua (the sky). 

In the Akar-Bale tribe the most usual statement is that both 
Puluga and Daria are male, and this was apparently also the 
common belief of the Aka-Bea. 

In the North Andaman the name Biliktt is also the word for 
" spider," but no meaning (save as the name of the mythical 
being) was discovered for the name Tarai. In the South and 
Middle Andaman no meaning was discovered, either for the 
name Bilik or Puluga, or for the name Teriya or Deria. 
Although this book does not deal with the Little Andaman, it 
is worth while to mention that there also the natives believe in 
a mythical person who lives in the north-east and sends the 
storms. This being is female and is named Oluga. The 
monitor lizard is also called oluga in the language of the Little 
Andaman. It is obvious, however, that the names Biliku, 
Puluga, Oluga are all of them different forms of the same word. 

As we have already seen, it is Biliku and Tarai who send 
the winds. Tarai sends the south-west wind, which brings the 
rain. Biliku sends the other winds which bring either fine 
weather, or, at times, violent storms. One Akar-Bale account 
of the matter (literally translated as told to me) is as follows. 
" Once upon a time Puluga and Daria were great friends, but 
they quarrelled. Piduga said that he was the bigger (more 
important). Daria said that he was. So now they are always 
quarrelling. Puluga sends the wind for one period. Then 
Daria sends his wind." 

According to the statement of an Akar-Bale man, Puluga 
makes the wind by fanning with a very large kwar-toy leaf 

Rain and thunder and lightning that come with the south- 
west wind are believed to be due to Tarai. Storms that come 


during the season connected with Biliku are made by Biliku and 
are due to her anger. When a big storm comes the natives say 
" Biliku is angry." Lightning is explained as being a fire-brand 
thrown by Biliku across the sky when she is angry, and thunder 
is said to be her voice growling. Another explanation of 
lightning is that it is a pearl-shell, called be in the North Anda- 
man, thrown by Biliku, the bright flash of the mother-of-pearl 
being seen as it crosses the sky. Still another statement from 
the North Andaman is that Biliku makes the lightning by 
striking a pearl-shell {be) against a stone. 

Although Biliku is generally mentioned when a native is 
asked about lightning, yet Tarai also wields the lightning and 
the thunder. On one occasion when I was talking to a native I 
referred to the thunder and lightning that were at the moment 
coming up from the south-west, making a remark to the effect 
that Biliku was getting angry about something, and was cor- 
rected by him with " No, that is Tarai!' 

^ There are a certain number of actions that are believed by 
the natives to arouse the anger of Biliku (Ptiluga), and thereby 
cause storms. There are three of these that are of importance. 
(i) Burning or melting bees'-wax. 
(2) Killing a cicada, or making a noise, particularly a noise 

- of cutting or banging wood, during the time that the cicada is 
" singing " in the morning and evening. 

\ (3) The use of certain articles of food, of which the chief 
are the seeds of the Entada scandens, the pith of the Caryota 
sobolifera, two species of Dioscorea (yam), and certain edible 
roots, of which may be mentioned those called in Aka-Jeru labo, 
mikulu, ji and loito. 

In this matter there is an entire unanimity of belief in all the 
tribes of the Great Andaman. All the natives agree in saying 
that any of these three actions causes the anger of Biliku or 
Puluga and so brings bad weather. 

I The natives do, as a matter of fact, melt all the bees'-wax 

' they obtain, in order to purify it, and render it suitable for use 
in the various ways in which they employ it. Also they do 

I make use of all the plants mentioned under (3) whenever they 

'■ are in season. They give various explanations of this variance 


between their precepts and their actions. Some pf my in- 
formants said that though these actions may brin^ rain and 
storms, yet they would rather submit to the bad weather than go 
without some of their most prized vegetable foods. Others 
again say that there is always a chance that Biliku may not 
notice that the plants have been disturbed, particularly if no 
fragments are left lying about the camp, and if, when taking the 
roots, the creepers are not disturbed. Another statement is that 
it is really only during the season of storms, called the Kimil 
season in Aka-Jeru, that it is dangerous to eat these foods, that 
is, during the months of October and November. After this 
season has passed there is no longer any danger of violent 
storms and the foods in question may be freely eaten. Never- 
theless the natives do eat these foods in the months of October 
and November. ' — 

Mr Man records the native beliefs about bees'-wax and the 
plants in question. " There is an idea current that if during the 
first half of the rainy season they eat the Caryota sobolifera, or 
pluck or eat the seeds of the Entada purscetha, or gather yams 
or other edible roots, another deluge would be the consequence, 
for Puluga is supposed to require these for his own consumption 
at that period of the year; the restriction, however does not 
extend to the fallen seeds of the Entada pursostka, which may 
be collected and eaten at any time with impunity. Another of 
the offences visited by Puluga with storms is the burning of 
bee's wax, the smell of which is said to be peculiarly obnoxious 
to him. Owing to this belief it is a common practice secretly to 
burn wax when a person against whom they bear ill-will is 
engaged in fishing, hunting, or the like, the object being to spoil 
his sport and cause him as much discomfort as possible ; hence 
arises the saying amongst them, when suddenly overtaken by a 
storm, that some one must be burning wax\" 

It must be noted that it is not only the " burning," but also 
the melting of bees'-wax that angers Puluga. As regards the 
plants mentioned by Mr Man none of these is available for 
food during the early part of the rainy season. At that time the 
yams are not formed, the pith of the Caryota palm is not ripe 

^ Man, op. cit. pp. 153, 154. 


and is uneatable, and the only available seeds of the Entada 
would be those of the last season that had not fallen from the 
pods or that had lain on the ground without having germinated. 
Thus the prohibition as stated by Mr Man amounts to nothing. 
The subject will be discussed in a later chapter. It may be 
remarked, however, that it is a fact easily to be observed that 
the natives do regard the gathering of these vegetable foods 
during the later portion of the rainy season and during the first 
part of the cool season (i.e. from October to December), as 
being an action that may offend Biliku. I was myself able to 
observe this on several occasions, as when once, at the very end 
of the rainy season, I, not then knowing the belief, asked a 
native to cut for me one of the pods of the Entada as a botanical 
specimen, whereupon the native, after fulfilling my request, 
explained to me that there would probably be a storm next day 
as the result of our action. 

In all the tribes of the Great Andaman I found a belief that 
Biliku or Puluga will be angry if anybody makes a noise, 
particularly a noise of chopping, breaking or banging wood, 
during the time the cicada is singing. The cicada "sings" as 
the natives call it, during the short interval between dawn and 
sunrise, and during that between sunset and darkness. It is at 
these times that no noise may be made. The Andamanese do 
observe this custom, and refrain from making any noise at such 
times. For instance, if a man were singing, he would cease until 
the cicada were silent again. In all the tribes I found that this 
prohibition was connected in the minds of the natives with 
Puluga, the reason of the custom being always explained to me 
by saying that any breach of it would infallibly bring bad 
weather. In the North Andaman the cicada {mite) is commonly 
spoken of as the " child " of Biliku, Biliku ot-tire. 

Mr Man refers to this custom. In one place he says that the 
first parents of the Andamanese were told by Puluga "that, 
though they were to work in the wet months, they must not do 
so after sundown, because by doing so they would worry the 
butu, which are under Pidugas special protection. Any noise, 
such as working {kopke) with an adze, would cause the butu's 
head to ache, and that would be a serious matter. During the 


cold and dry seasons work may be carried on day and night, as 
the btUii is then seldom seen, and cannot be disturbed \" 

The biitii here mentioned is the cicada. The prohibition is 
not, however, as Mr Man says, against working, but against 
making a noise. Nor does the prohibition against noise extend 
to the whole night, but only to the short interval between 
sunset and darkness, for it is during this interval that the cicada 
is singing. As soon as the cicada is silent you may make as 
much noise as you please. 

Another reference by Mr Man to the same custom is as 
follows : " Between dawn and sunrise they will do no work, save 
what is noiseless, lest the sun should be offended and cause an 
eclipse, storm, or other misfortune to overtake them. If, there- 
fore, they have occasion to start on a journey or hunting expedi- 
tion at so early an hour, they proceed as quietly as possible, and 
refrain from the practice, observed at other times of the day, of 
testing the strength of their bow-strings, as the snapping noise 
caused thereby is one of those to which the sun objects -." 

This is really the same prohibition as that already mentioned, 
against making a noise when the cicada is singing. The interest- 
ing point, which will be discussed in a later chapter, is that 
Mr Man's informant associated the prohibition not with Puluga, 
but with the sun. All the natives with whom I talked on the 
matter said that they would make no noise at such a time for 
fear of offending the cicada, and therefore Pidiiga or Biliku, and 
so bringing a storm. 

As regards the prohibition against killing the cicada, this 
seems to refer only to the imago. So far as I was able to 
observe, the natives do carefully avoid killing the cicada in its 
full-grown form. On the other hand the grub of the cicada is 
regularly killed and eaten, being regarded as a delicacy. It is 
only eaten during the months of October and November. 

In connection with the cicada, and with the weather, there is 
a rite which was described to me, but which I did not see 
performed. According to the account given of this rite, which 
is called " killing the cicada," its purpose is to produce fine 
weather. It takes place in December, at the end of the season 

^ Man, op. cit. p. 165. ^ Ibid. p. 153. 


during which they eat the grub. When the time agreed upon 
for the performance of the ceremony arrives, all the members of 
the community are careful to be in the camp before sunset. As 
soon as the sun sets and the cicadae begin their shrill cry, all the 
men, women and children present begin to make as much noise 
as they possibly can, by banging on the sounding-board, striking 
the ground with bamboos, beating pieces of wood together, or 
hammering on the sides of canoes, while at the same time shout- 
ing. They continue the noise, which entirely drowns that of the 
cicada, until after darkness has fallen. The rite may be per- 
formed, I believe, two or more times, on successive evenings. 
My informant explained the rite by saying that the natives have 
been eating the cicada, and the rite is intended to " kill " those 
that are left. After the rite the cicada disappears and is not 
seen or heard for some weeks, and there follow four months of 
fine weather with little rain. 

The beliefs relating to bees'-wax, to the various edible roots, 
and to the cicada, are the same in all the Great Andaman tribes, 
and are by far the most important of those connected with 
Bilikn. In the North Andaman Bilikii is supposed to be angry 
if any one kills a biliku (spider) a reo (a species of insect making 
a noise like a cicada, during the daytime, which I often heard, 
but never saw), or a catlo (a species of beetle). There is also a 
bird, which I was not able to identify, called toroi, which 
belongs to Biliku and may not be killed. 

In the A-Pucikwar tribe it is said that two species of fish, 
called unakoro and liwat belong to Bilik and may not be killed. 
A mollusc, called towa, also belongs to Bilik, and is for that 
reason never eaten. A bird called Bilik-V ar-dala (probably the 
same bird that is called tqroi in the North Andaman) may not 
be killed. 

In the Akar-Bale tribe I was told that two kinds of wood, 
bukura and worago, must not be used for firewood, for fear of 
offending Puluga, to whom they belong. Bukura is a species of 
Diospyros (ebony). 

The only punishment that Biliku ever inflicts on human 
beings when she is angry with them for any reason, is to send 
violent storms. The way to stop a storm seems to be to frighten 


Bilikii. One means of doing this is to throw the leaves of the 
Mimusops littoralis in the fire. These leaves explode with the 
heating of the juices and make a crackling or popping noise, 
which it is said that Biliku dislikes. I believe, however, that if 
any one were thus to burn Mimusops leaves during fine weather, 
it would be regarded as likely to cause a storm. The most 
efficacious means of stopping a storm is to do some of the 
things that Biliku most dislikes. To burn bees'-wax, or to go 
into the jungle and damage or destroy the creepers that belong 
to her, these are the heroic remedies against Biliku' s anger. 

The question of the Andamanese beliefs about storms is 
complicated by the fact that although all storms are said to be 
made by Puluga or Biliku, yet there is an alternative and 
contradictory belief that storms are made by the spirits of the 
sea {/urua). It is said that if a piece of the Anadendron pani- 
culatwn creeper were to be burnt there would be a great cyclone, 
but this appears to be associated, not with Biliku, but with the 
spirits of the sea. It will be shown later that there is a special 
connection between the Junta and this plant. The belief that a 
storm will arise if turtle fat be allowed to burn in the fire seems 
also to be connected with the Jurua and not with Biliku. The 
same is probably the case with a belief that rain will come if a 
Ficus laccifera tree be damaged. 

Some of the methods used to stop storms are also probably 
connected with the spirits and not with Biliku. One such 
method is to go into the sea and swish arrows about in the 
water. One oko-jumu (medicine-man) of the North Andaman is 
reputed to have stopped a big cyclone by taking a few pieces of 
Anadendron paniculatum and crushing them, and then diving 
into the sea and placing the crushed creeper under a stone. An 
oko-jumu who died while I was in the islands is supposed to 
have been able to stop a storm by similarly placing leaves and 
twigs of the Ficus laccifera {reyko) under a rock in the sea. 

To complete the account of this part of the Andamanese 
beliefs it is necessary to quote what Mr Man writes about the 
tribes of the South Andaman. Mr Man describes Puluga as a 
" Supreme Being " and says that some of the beliefs of the 
Andamanese relating to him " approximate closely to the true 


faith concerning the Deity." Mr Portman, following Mr Man, 
in this as in many other matters, translates the name Puluga by 
the English word " God." Mr Man's statements are as follows : — 

" Of Puluga they say that — 

" I. Though His appearance is like fire, yet He is (nowadays) 

" n. He was never born and is immortal. 

"HI. By him the world and all objects, animate and inani- 
mate were created, excepting only the powers of evil. 

" IV. He is regarded as omniscient while it is day, knowing 
even the thoughts of their hearts. 

" V. He is angered by the commission of certain sins, while 
to those in pain or distress he is pitiful, and sometimes deigns to 
afford relief 

"VI. He is the Judge from whom each soul receives its 
sentence after death, and to some extent, the hope of escape 
from the torments of Jereg-Par-mugu is said to affect their 
course of action in the present life. 

" Puluga is believed to live in a large stone house in the sky, 
with a wife whom he created for himself : she is green in appear- 
ance and has two names, Cana Aulola (Mother F'resh-water 
Shrimp), and Cana Palak (Mother Eel) ; by her he has a large 
family, all, except the eldest, being girls ; these last, known as 
morowin (sky spirits or angels), are said to be black in appear- 
ance, and, with their mother, amuse themselves from time to 
time by throwing fish and prawns into the streams and sea for 
the use of the inhabitants of the world. Puluga^s son is called 
Pijcor : he is regarded as a sort of archangel, and is alone per- 
mitted to live with his father, whose orders it is his duty to make 
known to the morowin. 

^'Pultiga is said to eat and drink, and, during the dry months 
of the year, to pass much of his time in sleep, as is proved by 
his voice (thunder) being rarely heard at that season ; he is the 
source whence they receive all their supplies of animals, birds, 
and turtles ; when they anger him he comes out of his house 
and blows, and growls, and hurls burning faggots at them — in 
other words, visits their offences with violent thunderstorms and 
heavy squalls ; except for this purpose he seldom leaves home, 


unless it be during the rains, when he descends to earth to 
provide himself with certain kinds of food ; how often this 
happens they do not know since, nowadays, he is invisible \" 

Mr Man's comparison between the Andamanese belief in 
Puluga and the Christian belief in a God, will be discussed in a 
later chapter when we come to deal with the interpretation of the 
Andamanese beliefs. It is to be noted that Mr Man does not 
make any reference to Deria {Tarai), nor does he mention the 
association of Puluga with the north-east. 

As regards the personal appearance of Puluga, the state- 
ments of different informants are not in agreement. One 
A-Pucikwar man described Bilik as being very big, about the 
height of one of the posts of my hut (which was eighteen feet), 
white-skinned like a European, having a long beard, and carry- 
ing a bow of th^/qrawa type. 

The legends connecting Puluga with the creation of the 
world will be given in the next chapter, 

I am not able to confirm Mr Man's statement that Puluga is 
omniscient, and in fact there are some customs of the natives 
that are in contradiction with any such belief When they dig 
up yams (which belong to Puluga) they take the tuber and 
replace the " crown " with the attached stem in the ground, and 
explain this by saying that if they do so Puluga will not notice 
that the yam has been taken. Whenever they do any of the 
things that displease Puluga, they seem to believe that there is a 
possibility that Puluga may not discover what has been done. It 
may be noted that there is no means of distinguishing in 
Andamanese between " all " and " a great deal." Thus a state- 
ment the Puluga knows " everything " may be equally well 
translated " Puluga knows a great deal." Between these two 
statements there is no difference for the Andamanese, but there 
is a great difference for us, and for this reason the use of the 
word " omniscient " is misleading. 

Mr Man says that Puluga " is angered by the commission of 
certain sins." In this connection it is necessary to refer to 
another passage in Mr Man's work. " That they are not 
entirely devoid of moral consciousness may, I think, in some 

^ Man, op. cit. p. 157. 


measure, be demonstrated by the fact of their possessing a 
word, yub-da, signifying sin or wrong-doing, which is used in 
connection with falsehood, theft, grave assault, murder, adultery, 
and — burning wax (!), which deeds are believed to anger 
Puliiga-la, the Creator \" Although I made very careful and 
repeated enquiries, I was unable to meet with a single native 
who believed that such actions as the murder of one man by 
another, or adultery, aroused the anger of Puluga. The only 
actions at which Puluga is angry are those purely ritual offences, 
such as burning or melting wax, killing a cicada, digging up 
yams, etc., which have already been mentioned. 

The Andamanese beliefs connected with the life after death 
will be described later in the present chapter. 

As regards the " stone house " in which Puluga is said to 
live, this really means, I believe, a cave. In the North Andaman 
Biliku is frequently spoken of as living in a cave iera-poy). 
Also, it may be recalled, the sky is generally regarded as consist- 
ing of stone or rock, and it is in the sky the Puluga lives. 

The son of Puluga, mentioned by Mr Man, Pijcor, is a being 
about whom I was able to learn very little. In the North 
Andaman the same being is named Perjido, and is said to be the 
son of Biliku. The Morowin, whom Mr Man describes as the 
daughters of Puluga, are sky spirits. The most usual belief in the 
South Andaman is that there are both male and female Morowin. 
They are beings of somewhat the same nature as the jungle 
spirits and the sea spirits. An Akar-Bale informant told me, 
" The Morua are sky spirits. They eat only pork and nothing 
else. They are angry if pork is roasted, and make the people 
ill. They used to live in the big baja {Sterculia) trees, but now 
they live in the sky." 

In this connection it may be mentioned that there is a belief 
throughout the Andamans that it is dangerous to roast pork. In 
the North Andaman the natives commonly say that the spirits 
of the jungle are angry if pork be roasted, and may be attracted 
to the spot and cause the natives to be ill. An Akar-Bale 
belief, connecting the danger with the spirits of the sky has just 
been mentioned. Mr Man's version of the matter is as follows : — 

^ Man, oj>. cit. p. H2. 


" ...there is a company of evil spirits who are called col, and who 
are much dreaded. They are believed to be descendants of 
Maia Col who lived in antediluvian times. They generally 
punish those who offend them by baking or roasting pig's flesh, 
the smell of which is particularly obnoxious to them, as it is also 
to Puluga, who therefore, often assists them in discovering the 
delinquent ; the same risk does not attend boiling pork, which 
the olfactory nerves of the fastidious col are not keen enough to 
detect. While the Andamanese say that they are liable to be struck 
by Erem-caiiga-la or Juruwin at any time or in any place, the col 
strike those only who offend them, and that during the day 
while they are stationary, this being necessitated by the distance 
from the earth of their abode, whence they hurl their darts ; 
an invisible spear is the weapon they always use, and this is 
thrown with unerring aim at the head of their victims, and is 
invariably fatal. As these demons are considered especially 
dangerous on the hottest days, they are apparently held 
accountable for the deaths from sunstroke which happen from 
time to time ^." 

It may be remarked that Col is the name of a species of 
bird (probably the racket-tailed drongo), which is named from 
its call — col, col, col. I did not hear the name used to denote 
what Mr Man calls demons, except in so far as the birds them- 
selves are supposed to have supernatural powers. There is, 
perhaps, some sort of connection between the c^/(the birds, that 
is) and the sky-spirits, Morowin or Morua, but I was not able to 
satisfy myself on the point. The connection of them both with 
Puluga is still more obscure. 

Another belief in connection with pigs is that any person who 
cuts up a pig badly is liable to be punished. Mr Man states, on 
this subject, "Puluga never himself puts any one to death, but 
he objects so strongly to seeing a pig badly quartered and 
carved that he invariably points out those who offend him in this 
respect to a class of malevolent spirits called Col, one of whom 
forthwith despatches the unfortunate individual ^." 

I was not able to find any evidence that Puluga is believed 
to be angry if a pig is badly quartered. From the natives with 

^ Man, op. cit. p. 159. ^ Ibid. p. 158. 

B. A. II 


whom I talked on the subject I received two different statements. 
One was to the effect that if a pig is badly cut up the meat will 
be bad and anyone who eats it will be ill. The other was that 
if a pig is badly cut up the spirits of the jungle will be angry 
and will punish the offender. In neither case was there any 
reference to Puluga or Biliku. 

In general it may be said that the natives believe that the 
only punishment that Puluga or Biliku ever sends against those 
who offend him or her in any way is bad weather, and I did not 
J myself meet with any exception to this rule. 

One other observation by Mr Man may be mentioned. He 
says, " When they see a dark cloud approaching at a time when 
rain would prove very inconvenient, as when hunting, travelling, 
etc., they advise Puluga to divert its course by shouting ' Wara- 
Jobo kopke, kopke, kopke ' ( Wara-Jobo will bite, bite, bite (you)). 
If in spite of this a shower falls they imagine that Puluga is 
undeterred by their warning \" 

It is clear from the above discussion of the matter that there 
is not any complete agreement in the beliefs concerning Puluga 
{Biliku) even in any one tribe of the Andamans. There are 
many different statements about this being which cannot be 
made consistent with one another without doing violence to the 
evidence. At the same time, amid all the differences and 
inconsistencies there are a certain number of points about which 
there is a general agreement throughout the whole of the tribes 
of the Great Andaman. One of these is the connection of 
Puluga and Daria with the weather, with the two chief winds, 
and with the points of the compass from which these winds 
blow. The other is the belief that certain actions, such as 
melting bees'-wax, digging up yams, etc., are disliked by 
Puluga^ and are punished by him (or her) with stormy weather. 
On these matters there is entire agreement amongst the 
natives of all the tribes, and they are to the natives them- 
j selves by far the most important part of the beliefs concerning 

We have seen that the Andamanese believe in two different 
kinds of what may be called, for want of a better term, super- 

1 Man, op. cit. p. 153. 


natural beings. In the first place there are the spirits, the Lau 
or Caiiga, and the Junta, inhabiting the forest and the sea 
respectively. These are all associated by the natives with 
ghosts, i.e. with the spirits of dead men and women. In the 
second place there are other beings connected with the sun and 
moon, lightning and thunder and the monsoons {Biliku and 
Tarai). These are all associated with the phenomena of nature. 
There are many points of contact between these two classes of 
beings. Thus there are two alternative explanations of bad 
weather, one that it is due to the spirits (particularly the spirits 
of the sea), the other that it is due to the anger of Biliku. This 
is a point that will be referred to again in a later chapter. 

It is possible that there are beliefs in other supernatural 
beings who are neither spirits of the dead nor connected with 
natural phenomena. The only being of such a nature that 
I was able to discover anything about is one called Nila or 
Nila. This is the name of an evil being who is supposed to live 
in hollow Pterocarpus trees. When he smells human beings 
near his tree he comes out and kills them with his knife. I 
found this belief in the A -Pucikwar tribe, but was not able to 
find any trace of a similar belief in the North Andaman, though 
of course I cannot say that it does not exist there. Mr Man 
mentions this same being. " This spirit IVi/a is supposed to live 
in ant-hills, and to have neither wife nor child ; he is not 
regarded as such a malevolent personage as Erem-caiiga-la, and, 
though he is always armed with a knife, he rarely injures human 
beings with it, or when he does so, it is not in order to feed upon 
their bodies, for he is said to eat earth only \" Mr Man adds, in 
a footnote that " cases have been cited of persons who have 
been found stabbed, whose deaths have been attributed to Nila : 
the possibility of the individuals in question having been 
murdered is scouted." 

The version given by Mr Man is not quite in agreement with 
the information given to me, but I was unfortunately not able to 
learn anything more about the nature of Nila. 

As throwing some additional light on the way in which the 
Andamanese think of the supernatural beings that have been 

^ Man, op. cit. p. 159. 

II — 2 


mentioned above, I add here a brief description of a sort of 
dramatic or pantomimic dance that I witnessed in the North 
Andaman. Many savage tribes in different parts of the world 
are in the habit of performing dances or pantomimes in which 
the performer represents a supernatural being. In the Andamans 
there are no regular performances of this kind. The solitary one 
that I witnessed was entirely exceptional. 

The performer was a man named Kobo. This man, accord- 
ing to the statements of the natives, had, at one time of his life, 
died and come back to life again. Owing to this fact he was 
endowed with special magical powers, and had some reputation 
as a magician or medicine-man {pko-jumu). During the time 
that he was dead (probably a few hours of unconsciousness), he 
is supposed to have visited the world of spirits, and while there 
he saw many things and learnt much about the spirits. Among 
other things he witnessed a dance in which the spirits and other 
supernatural beings took part. All these things he was able to 
remember when he returned to life. 

The performance was given one afternoon on the ordinary 
dancing ground of the village. The performer sat on his 
haunches in a hut at one end of the dancing ground. Thrust 
into the back of his belt he wore a bunch of leaves sticking out 
somewhat after the manner of a cock's tail, but he had no other 
ornament. The spectators, consisting of men, women and 
children, were seated round the edge of the dancing ground, 
which had been swept clean. On one side sat a few women who 
acted as chorus. There was no sounding-board. 

The performer began to sing a song, composed on the model 
of the songs of the South Andaman (with a short refrain) which 
has now for some years been adopted by the Northern tribes in 
preference to their own. As he finished the song the women of 
the chorus took up the refrain, repeating it over and over again, 
and marking time by clapping their hands on their thighs. The 
performer came out of his hut and performed a dance. At a 
signal from him the chorus ceased and he returned to his hut. 
In this way he sang several songs, repeating each one several 
times, and performed a number of short dances. In nearly 
every case the step of the dance was some simple modification 


of the step in common use at an ordinary dance. Thus in one 
dance he danced very violently and pretended to hurt his leg 
through the violence of his dancing, making angry signs to the 
chorus to stop their clapping, of which, of course, they took no 
notice. In another dance he stopped at short intervals and 
violently scratched his sides and then doubled himself up with 
laughter. In yet another, he danced with the step of the 
women's dance, covering his face with his hands and pretending 
to be very bashful. In still another he stood on tiptoe on the 
right foot and stamped with his left foot in time to the chorus 
of women. In some of the dances he walked round the open 
space within the circle of spectators, sometimes in a crouching 
attitude, and at other times in other attitudes. All these 
dances aroused great amusement amongst the spectators. It 
was unfortunately impossible for me to understand them all 
or to obtain an adequate explanation of them either at the 
time or later. 

Of the songs that were sung one was "The tide has gone 
down over the reef I walk round the world. There is great 
wind and rain." 

Some of these dances I was able to understand even without 
explanation. One of them represented Biliku. The performer 
held in his right hand a shell, and as he danced grotesquely 
round the open space he looked fiercely at the spectators and 
threatened to throw the shell at them. Many of the women 
and children could not prevent themselves from starting back- 
wards when he thus threatened them, but their fears were 
immediately dispelled in laughter. The shell was not a pearl-shell 
{be) but a Cyrena shell {bun), but I believe that this was because 
there was no pearl-shell available. The representation of Biliku 
was thus reduced to a single gesture, that of threatening the 
natives with her pearl-shell (lightning). 

Another dance represented the jungle spirits {Bido-tec Lau). 
In this he first hid himself behind a screen of bido leaves 
{Calamus tigrinus) that had been prepared, singing a song. The 
leaves represented a clump of the Calamus palm such as is 
supposed to be the favourite haunt of the jungle spirits. After 
having sung for some time behind his screen of leaves, he came 


out with a bow and arrow in his hand, and as he danced in front 
of the spectators he pretended to shoot at them. 

In another dance he represented E/e, the lightning. He 
sat on a stone that had been placed in the middle of the open 
space, swinging his arms to the time of the chorus, and every 
now and then shaking his leg. 

This observation is an important one in several ways. 
Although I asked the man to repeat it, in order that I might 
make fuller notes and obtain explanations of many obscure 
points, and although he grudgingly said that he would, yet he 
did not do so. He was, moreover, very reserved over the matter, 
and not very willing to talk about his own performance. 

I believe that the performance was an entirely exceptional 
affair. I never at any other time either saw or heard of one 
man or even several men, giving a dance for the amusement of 
others. I think that the whole thing was entirely the invention 
of the performer. He had given the same performance, or 
one very similar, at least once before the occasion on which 
I saw it. 

We may now turn to the Andamanese beliefs relating to the 
soul and the life after death. 

The vital principle is at different times identified by the 
Andamanese with the pulse, the breath, with the blood and with 
the fat, particularly the kidney-fat. Thus the body of a slain 
enemy is burnt so that the blood and fat may be consumed in 
smoke and ascend to the sky where they will no longer be a 
danger to those who have slain him. 

The nearest approach to our notion of a soul that the natives 
possess is their belief concerning the double or reflection seen in 
a mirror. In the Northern tribes the word ot-jiimulo means 
" reflection," and also " shadow," and is also nowadays applied to 
a photograph. The word ot-jiimu, in the same languages, means 
" a dream " or " to dream." We may perhaps translate the 
word ot-jumulo as meaning " soul." In the Aka-Bea language 
ot-yolo is " reflection," while there is a different word, ot-diya or 
ot-lere, for " shadow," and neither of the words has any connec- 
tion with the word " dream " which is taraba. Mr Man trans- 
lates the word ot-yolo as "soul." 


The fact that the words for dream and reflection, double 
or shadow are from the same root in the Northern languages 
is of interest. Dreams are sometimes explained by saying that 
the sleeper's double {ot-jumulo) has left his body and is wander- 
ing elsewhere. Dreams are regarded as being veridical, or at any 
rate, as having importance. One man told me how, in a dream 
the night before, his ot-Jumtdo had travelled from where we were 
to his own country and had there seen the death of the baby of 
a woman of his own tribe. He was fully convinced that the 
baby must really have died. 

An Andamanese will never, or only with the very greatest 
reluctance, awaken another from sleep. One explanation of this 
that was given to me was that the ot-jiimulo or double of the 
sleeper may be wandering far from his body, and to waken him 
suddenly might cause him to be ill. 

The principle on which dreams are interpreted is a very 
simple one. All unpleasant dreams are bad, all pleasant ones 
are good. The natives believe that sickness is often caused by 
dreams. A man in the early stages of an attack of fever, for 
instance, may have a bad dream. When the fever develops he 
explains it as due to the dream. If a man has a painful dream 
he will often not venture out of the camp the following day, but 
will stay at home until the effect has worn off. The natives 
believe that they can communicate in dreams with the spirits, 
but the power to do this regularly is the privilege of certain 
special individuals, known as oko-jumu (dreamers). However, an 
ordinary individual may occasionally have dreams of this kind. 

I found that any attempt to study the dreams of such a 
people as the Andamanese is made very difficult by the fact that 
it is never possible to tell how far the original dream has been 
arranged and altered by the waking imagination. So far as my 
observations went the majority of dreams are either visual or 
motor, or both. Further reference to dreams will be made later 
in connection with magic. 

When a man or woman dies the double (or as some of the 
natives explain it, the breath) leaves the body and becomes a 
spirit {lau or cauga). By death a man ceases to exist as a man, 
and begins a new existence as a spirit. 


Whenever I asked the natives whence came the spirits of the 
jungle and the sea I received the answer that they are the spirits 
of dead men and women. On the other hand, when I put in 
another form what might seem to be the same question, and 
asked what became of a man's spirit after his death, I received 
many different and inconsistent answers. As it would take too 
much space to transcribe every answer that I received to this 
question, a number of typical ones are selected. Any attempt 
to reconcile the statements of different men or of the same 
men on different occasions can only produce a false impression 
of the real condition of the native beliefs, and therefore the 
statements are kept separate, and each one is given as it was 
taken down. 

The first is from the Northern tribes. Exactly similar state- 
ments were made to me by men of several tribes. " When a 
man dies he becomes -a. Lau and wanders about the jungle. At 
first he keeps near the grave or the place where he died, but 
after a while he finds that is no good, and so he goes to live 
with the other spirits. If he is drowned he becomes a Jiirua!' 
A second account, varying from the above in only one particular, 
is also from one of the Northern tribes {Aka-Cari). "When a 
man dies he becomes a Lau or a Jurua and lives with the other 
spirits. If he be a jungle-dweller he becomes a Lmi and lives in 
the jungle. If he be a coast-dweller he becomes a Jurua and 
lives in the sea. All the Aka-Cari become Jurua when they 
die. The spirit stays in his own country. The spirits of a man's 
own country (whether Lau or Juru.a) are friendly to him, but 
those of another country are dangerous and will make him ill." 

An entirely different statement frequently made to me by 
men of the Northern tribes is that when a man dies the spirit 
{Lau) either immediately, or after the lapse of some time, goes to 
another world that lies under this one and is called Maramiku. 
This world of spirits is said to be just like the actual world, with 
forest and sea, and all the familiar animal and vegetable species. 
The inhabitants spend their time just as the Andamanese do on 
earth, hunting, fishing and dancing. 

Still another statement that is commonly made in the North 
is that the spirits of the dead go to live in the sky. Two such 


statements are as follows : " When a man dies his ot-juimdo 
(double) goes up to the sky and becomes a Lau (spirit)." " A 
man's spirit wanders in the jungle till the flesh has rotted from 
the bones, and then goes away to the sky," Other statements 
were very similar to these two. 

Turning now to the Southern tribes, one informant of the 
A-Pucikwar tribe gave me the following account : " When a 
man or woman dies the spirit goes away to the east or north-east 
and goes over the edge of the world, remaining in a place called 
Laii-ruy-ciy (Spirit's House) where there is a large hut in a 
jungle similar to that on earth. There they live just as men do 
on earth, hunting and fishing, and so on. Beyond the home of 
the spirits is Puta-koica, the home of the sun and moon. The 
rainbow is the path by which the spirits come to visit their 
friends on earth, which they do in dreams. The rainbow is 
made of canes (? a cane)." 

Another version from the same tribe was to the effect that 
after death the spirits of the dead go to live in the sky with a 
mythical being named Torno. This Tonio, according to some of 
the legends, was the first ancestor of the Andamanese. By one 
of my best informants he was identified to some extent with the 
sun, and consequently with light and with fine weather. This 
man stated that in the world of the spirits it is never night as 
Tonio is always there. The spirits always have plenty of pork 
and turtle, and spend their time dancing and enjoying them- 

One old man of the A-Pticikwar tx\}oQ,, who had some reputa- 
tion as a medicine-man, said that the spirits of medicine-men 
lived apart from the spirits of ordinary men and women, and are 
called not Lau but Bilik. He told me how he had been visited in 
a dream by BAco Bilik, that is by the spirit of one Bqico who had, 
when he lived, been a great medicine-man, and who, now that he 
was dead, had become a Bilik, as distinguished from an ordinary 
Lati. It is the Bilik who control the weather. They can also 
cause or cure sickness in living men. The Boico mentioned 
above was alive when my informant was a young man. 

In the Akar-Bale tribe one man told me that the breath 
{ig-peti) of a dying person goes up to the sky and becomes 


a Spirit. Another belief of the same tribe is that the spirits of 
the dead go to J ereg-V ar-mugu, which is under the earth. 
From the same tribe comes the following account : " When a 
man or woman dies, the spirit first of all goes southward to the 
country of the Aka-Bea, and then returns to Gudna-V ar-boy in 
Kiiaico-bur (in the Akar-Bale country). It then goes to Jila- 
buaro in Jila (East Island) and from there to Kere-tuaur. The 
inhabitants of the last-named place are warned of the approach 
of the spirit by the cries of the birds tao {Eudytiamis honorata, 
Indian koel or brain-fever bird) and bil (Australian goggle- 
eyed plover). At one time the people of Luy-tauar used to 
catch the spirits in big nets made for the purpose. They were 
taught to do this by a wise woman named In Golat. The spirits 
try to run away, but they get caught at the place called Guamo- 
leber. The people then throw them into the sea, and they (the 
spirits) then go to Canga-luy-jiya (Spirit's Home) and remain 
there." The above is given exactly as it was translated to me 
by an Akar-Bale man who knew English and who acted as my 
interpreter on the occasion. There is much in it that I do not 
understand and that my questions failed to elucidate. It is 
given as an example of the nature of some of the more obscure 
of the Andamanese beliefs. To understand fully many of their 
statements on this and other matters would need a more com- 
plete knowledge of the language than I possessed, and a longer 
time than I was able to give. 

The various examples given above are sufficient to show the 
general nature of the Andamanese beliefs. In every tribe there 
are alternative and inconsistent beliefs as to the place where 
spirits go, which by different accounts is in the sky, beneath the 
earth, out to the east where the sun and moon take their rise, or 
in the jungle and sea of their own country. One thing is clear, 
that the Andamanese ideas on the subject are floating and 
lacking in precision. There is no fixity or unanimity of belief 
amongst them. 

To these various accounts from the natives themselves, tnust 
be added the description of the beliefs of the Aka-Bea tribe as 
recorded by Mr Man. This may best be given in the writer's 
own words. " The world, exclusive of the sea, is declared to be 


flat and to rest on an immense palm-tree {Caryota soboliferd) 
called barata, which stands in the midst of a jungle comprising 
the whole area under the earth. This jungle, caitan (Hades) is 
a gloomy place, for, though visited in turn by the sun and moon, 
it can, in consequence of its situation, be only partially lighted : 
it is hither the spirits {cauga) of the departed are sent by Puluga 
to await the Resurrection. 

" No change takes place in caitan in respect to growth or age ; 
all remain as they were at the time of their departure from the 
earth, and the adults are represented as engaged in hunting, 
after a manner peculiar to disembodied spirits. In order to 
furnish them with sport the spirits of animals and birds are also 
sent to caitan, but as there is no sea there, the cauga of fish and 
turtle remain in their native element and are preyed upon by 
juruwin. The spirits {catiga) and souls {pt-yold) of all children 
who die before they cease to be entirely dependent on their 
parents (i.e. under six years of age) go to caitan, and are placed 
under a rau tree {FiciLs lacciferd) on the fruit of which they 
subsist. As none can quit caitan who have once entered, they 
support their stories regarding it by a tradition that in ages long 
past an oko-paiad was favoured in a dream with a vision of the 
regions and of the pursuits of the disembodied spirits. 

" Between the earth and the eastern sky there stretches an 
invisible cane bridge {pidga-V ar-caugd) which steadies the former 
and connects it with jereg (paradise) ; over this bridge the souls 
{pt-yold) of the departed pass into paradise, or \.o jereg-F ar-miigit, 
which is situated below it : this latter place might be described 
as purgatory, for it is a place of punishment for those who have 
been guilty of heinous sins, such as murder. Like Dante, they 
depict it as very cold, and therefore a most undesirable region 
for mortals to inhabit. From all this it will be gathered that 
these despised savages believe in a future state, in the resurrec- 
tion, and in the threefold constitution of man. 

" In serious illness the sufferer's spirit {catigd) is said to be 
hovering between this world and Hades, but does not remain 
permanently in the latter place until some time after death, 
during which interval it haunts the abode of the deceased and 
the spot where the remains have been deposited. In dreams 


it is the soul which, having taken its departure through the 
nostrils, sees or is engaged in the manner represented to the 

" The Andamanese do not regard their shadows but their 
reflections (in any mirror) as their souls. The colour of the soul 
is said to be red, and that of the spirit black, and, though 
invisible to human eyes, they partake of the form of the person 
to whom they belong. Evil emanates from the soul, and all good 
from the spirit ; at the resurrection they will be re-united and 
live permanently on the new earth, for the souls of the wicked 
will then have been reformed by the punishments inflicted on 
them during their residence in jereg-l' ar-mugu. 

" The future life will be but a repetition of the present, but all 
will then remain in the prime of life, sickness and death will be 
unknown, and there will be no more marrying or giving in 
marriage. The animals, birds, and fish will also re-appear in the 
new world in their present form. 

" This blissful state will be inaugurated by a great earthquake, 
which, occurring by Pulugds command, will break the pidga- 
Var-cauga and cause the earth to turn over : all alive at the time 
will perish, exchanging places with their deceased ancestors ^" 

This account given by Mr Man, must, I think, be received 
with great caution. To one who has talked to the Andamanese on 
these subjects it seems probable that Mr Man has here combined 
into a single consistent version, a number of independent 
statements, which, as the natives believe them, are not parts of 
an organised doctrine, but are separate from and often incon- 
sistent with each other. Added to this there is the fact that 
Mr Man has so written down the native beliefs as to bring out 
the greatest possible degree of resemblance to the Christian 
mythology. This is clear from his use of the words Hades, 
paradise, etc. Allowance must therefore be made for the fact 
that Mr Man evidently found some pleasure in tracing analogies 
between the mythology of the Andamanese and the Christian 

Owing to the importance attaching to all Mr Man's state- 
ments it is necessary to examine critically the account tran- 
^ Man, op. cit. p. i6i. 


scribed above. We may begin with what is said of the doctrine 
of the threefold nature of man. By this it would seem to be 
meant that man is regarded as composed of body, soul and 
spirit. It is quite certain that the Andamanese mean different 
things by the words ot-yolo (reflection) here translated " soul," 
and cauga translated "spirit." The difference is this, that a man, 
while he is still alive, has a " double " or " soul " if the latter 
word be preferred, while when he is dead he becomes a spirit. 
Thus the spirit is not a part of a man while he is alive. The 
word cauga (or lau) is simply the name of a particular class of 
beings which includes all dead men and women. The bones of 
a man become " spirit-bones " {cauga-td) when he dies, just as he 
becomes a spirit. To compare the Andamanese belief with the 
Christian doctrine that each man possesses, while he is alive, 
both a soul and a spirit, these being different things, is therefore 
misleading. For this reason it is perhaps unfortunate to trans- 
late the Andamanese cauga as meaning spirit, but there does not 
seem to be any other convenient English word. 

Mr Man's account would seem to imply that the native 
belief is that at death the soul (reflection) of a man goes to one 
place {Jereg or J ereg-P ar-mugit) while his spirit goes elsewhere 
(to Caitan). In the case of children however, Mr Man makes a 
difference, for both the souls and spirits of children go to Caitan. 
Mr Man compares Caitan to Hsides, /e7^eg to paradise and /ereg- 
Var-mugii to purgatory. 

I do not think that the Andamanese have any such compli- 
cated doctrine as this. It seems to me almost certain that 
Mr Man has received from the natives several different state- 
ments, similar to some of those given earlier, and that he has 
combined and reconciled them as well as he could. Some of his 
informants, apparently, described the world after death as being 
beneath the earth, and gave the name of it as Caitan'^. Other 
informants seem to have spoken of Jereg or J ereg-V ar-imigu. I 
think it improbable that any one native should have stated, as 
Mr Man's account would seem to imply, that the soul of a dead 

^ I could not obtain any information about the word that Mr Man gives as chaitan. 
Some men of the South Andaman whom I questioned did not seem to recognize the 
word, except as their way of pronouncing the Urdu word shaitan = ^tsS\.^ 


man goes to one place, while the man himself (now a spirit) goes 
somewhere else. Mr Man's description of Caitan corresponds 
almost exactly to the descriptions given to me by the Akar-Bale 
and A-Piicikwar of J ereg-V ar-miigit, and to the descriptions 
of Maramikii given by the Northern tribes. If Caitan be really 
an Aka-Bea word, it would seem to be only another name for 
J ereg-F ar-imigu. 

One of the most important points in Mr Man's statement is 
that while the souls of good men go to paradise as he puts it, the 
souls of bad men are condemned to torture in purgatory ^ In 
my own enquiries I did not come across any definite belief of this 
nature, but I am not prepared to deny its existence. All that I 
can say is that I did not find any evidence whatever that good 
men and bad men (in any meanings in which those words could 
be used by the natives) receive different treatment after death. 
In talking to men of the Akar-Bale and A-Pucikzvar tribes I did 
not hear oi Jereg as a distinct place from J ereg-V ar-mugu. The 
latter name is of course a compound, from ar-inugii = front, and 
might mean either " the place fronting or facing Je^-eg " or " the 
place Jereg, fronting us." 

Mr Man states that the souls and spirits of young children go 
to Caitan where they subsist on the fruit of a ran tree {Ficus 
lacciferd). In the North Andaman I found a belief that the 
souls of children, before they are born, live in the Ficus trees, but 
these are the real trees on earth that are in question, and not a 
mythical tree in the next world. It is commonly believed that 
if a baby dies the soul enters the mother again and is born a 
second time. It is possible that what Mr Man relates as to 
the souls of children after death living in a Fiats tree in Caitan 
may really refer to real fig trees on earth. 

As regards the resurrection spoken of by Mr Man, I was also 
so unfortunate as to obtain no information. As will be shown 
in a later chapter, there are several myths of the world coming 
to an end and starting afresh, and these myths are generally 

1 In the "Census Report" 1901, p. 62, Sir Richard Temple writes, "The Anda- 
manese have an idea that the ' soul ' will go under the earth by an aerial bridge after 
death, but there is no heaven nor hell nor any idea of a corporeal resurrection in a 
religious sense." 


associated with Puluga or Bilikii. All the versions that I heard, 
however, referred to the past and not to the future ^ 

The Andamanese speak of unconsciousness as " death," and 
regard a person who has been unconscious for some time as 
having been dead and returned to life again. I was once told 
that an old man in the village was " dead " and found him in a 
state of coma from which he recovered and lived for several days. 
There are stories of persons having returned to life even after 
they have been buried. One such tale was told me in the North 
Andaman. A man died and was buried. As his friends and 
relatives, after packing up their belongings, were leaving the 
camp in their canoes, the man's voice was heard calling. His 
wife and mother turned back and met him and took him in their 
canoe. He lived for some time after this and then he died and 
was buried again. Again the same thing happened, the dead 
man re-appearing just as they were setting off in their canoes 
from the camp that they were deserting on account of his death. 
Finally the man died a third time. When he was buried this 
time the men dug a very deep hole some distance from the 
camp, and then hurried back to the camp and hastily gathered 
up their belongings and left it. Nothing more was seen of 
the dead man, but when, after the lapse of some months, they 
went to dig up the bones, they found the mat and leaves and 
rope in which the corpse had been bound, but there were 
no bones. 

Amongst the coast-dwellers of the North Andaman I found 
a belief that the soul of a dying man goes out with the ebbing 

There are, amongst the Andamanese, certain individuals who 
are distinguished from their fellows by the supposed possession 
of supernatural powers. These specially favoured persons 

■^ It may be noted that in the Andamanese languages there is no future tense of 
the verb, and it is often very difficult to know whether a speaker is referring to the 
present or to the future. Further, although there is a past tense, a native often uses 
the present tense in a narrative relating to the past, so that a statement relating to the 
past and one relating to the future may have exactly the same grammatical form. 
Mr Ellis, writing in the Journal of the Philological Society (1882) from information 
supplied by Mr Man, gives a verbal suffix -ngabo denoting the future in the Aka-Bea 
language. Mr Portroan points out that this is an error. {Notes on the Languages of 
the South Andaman, p. 88.) 


correspond, to some degree, with the medicine-men, magicians 
or shamans of other primitive societies. The name for these 
medicine-men in the North Andaman is oko-juimi, meaning 
literally "dreamer" or "one who speaks from dreams" from a stem 
-jumu the primary meaning of which refers to the phenomena 
of dreams. In Aka-Bea the corresponding term is oko-paiad^ 
and according to Mr Man, this term also means "dreamer." 
Mr Portman, however, gives taraba as the Aka-Bea word for 
" dream " or " to dream." 

According to a statement by Mr Man, only men can possess 
the powers that entitle them to be regarded as oko-paiad'^. The 
natives whom I questioned told me that a woman may possess 
the same powers, though it is more usual for men to become 
famous in this way than women. There is no very clear dividing 
line between those who are oko-jumu or oko-paiaddind those who 
are not ; one person may possess the powers in only a slight 
degree, so as scarcely to differentiate him from others, while 
another may be much more highly gifted. 

At the present time it is no longer possible to obtain full and 
satisfactory information on this subject. Most of the old 
oko-jumu and oko-paiad are now dead. Amongst the younger 
men there are a few who pretend to the position, but the recent 
intercourse with foreigners has produced a degree of scepticism 
in such matters that makes it difficult or nearly impossible to 
obtain any reliable information as to the former beliefs from any 
but the very old men. To this difficulty must be added that in 
talking to some of the very few old men who could have given 
more valuable information I had to make use of an interpreter, 
and though they might have been willing to confide to me some 
of the secrets of their profession they would not do so before a 
younger man of their own race. 

The powers of a dreamer, supernatural as they are, can 
only be acquired by supernatural means, through contact in one 
way or another with the spirits (i.e. the Laii, or Caugd). One way 
of coming into contact with the spirits is by death. If a man 
should, as the natives put it, die and then come back to life again, 

^ Man, op. cit. p. 96. 


he is, by that adventure, endowed with the power that makes a 
medicine-man. One man of the A /sa-Kgra tribe was pointed out 
to me as having obtained his powers in this way. It would seem 
that during a serious illness he was unconscious for some twelve 
hours or so, and his friends thought that he was dead. A 
medicine-man whom I met with in the A-Pucikwar tribe was 
said to have died and come to life again three times. Another 
man, whom I did not meet, was described to me as a great 
oko-jtiinu, and from the description given it seemed to me that 
he was subject to epileptic fits. As against this, however, 
Mr Man states that " epilepsy is a recognised form of malady, 
but the fits are not regarded in a superstitious lights" 

Another way in which a man can acquire magical powers is 
by direct communication with the spirits. A man who died a 
few years ago was believed by the natives to have once met with 
some spirits in the jungle, and to have acquired in this way the 
powers of an oko-jumu. He used to go off into the jungle by 
himself at intervals and hold communication with the spirits 
with whom he had made friends. From such a visit he had 
returned with his head decorated with shredded palm-leaf fibre 
{kqrd) which had, so he said, been placed on him by the spirits. 
This man had a reputation as a powerful oko-jumu. 

In a less degree the powers of an oko-jumu may be ob- 
tained through dreams. It is believed that certain men have 
the power of communicating with the spirits in dreams, and such 
men are oko-jumu. If a man or boy experiences dreams that are 
in any way extraordinary, particularly if, in his dreams he sees 
spirits, either the spirits of dead persons known to him when 
alive, or spirits of the forest or the sea, he may acquire in time 
the reputation of a medicine-man. 

A man may claim some degree of magical power, and yet 
his claims may not be recognized by others. Each oko-jumu 
has to make his own reputation, and to sustain it when made. 
This he can only do by demonstrating his power to others. 
Once this reputation is his, he not only receives the respect of 
others but also makes a considerable personal profit. Every one 
is anxious to be on good terms with one who is believed to 

1 Man, op. cit. p. 83. 
B. A. 12 


have extraordinary powers. Hence a man who is an acknowledged 
oko-jumu is sure to receive a good share of the game caught by- 
others, and presents of all kinds from those who seek his good- 

As the name implies, and in whatever way his power may have 
been obtained, an oko-jumu is privileged to dream in a way that 
less favoured persons do not. In his dreams he can communicate 
with the spirits of the dead. In dreams, also, so the natives say, 
he is able to cause the illness of an enemy or to cure that of a 

By his communication with the spirits, in dreams, or in 
waking life, the oko-jumu acquires magical knowledge that he is 
able to turn to account in curing illness and in preventing bad 
weather. When a person is ill the oko-jum,u is often consulted 
as to the best means of treating the patient. His treatment 
is often limited to the recommendation, or the application, of 
some one or other of the recognized remedies. He may under- 
take to dispel the spirits that are supposed to be the cause 
of the disease, which he does by addressing them and conjuring 
them to go away, or by the use of one or other of the substances 
and objects that are believed to have the power of keeping 
spirits at a distance. Sometimes the oko-jumu will promise 
to cure the patient by means of dreams. It is believed that in 
his dreams he can communicate with the spirits and can 
persuade them to help him to cure the sick person. 

Besides their power of causing or curing sickness, the 
oko-jumu are credited with being able to control the weather. 
As has been shown, the Andamanese believe that the weather is 
under the control of two beings named Biliku and Tarai. There 
is, however, an alternative and contradictory belief, which is also 
held, that the weather is controlled by the spirits, and particularly 
by those of the sea. The means taken by magicians or others 
to prevent bad weather can be divided into two kinds according 
as they are directed against Biliku or Tarai, or against the 
spirits of the sea. As an example of the very simple rites 
which are performed for this purpose, two cases may be quoted. 
One of the oko-jumu of the Northern tribes, now dead, once 
stopped a very violent storm by crushing between two stones 


a piece of the Anadendron paniculatum and diving with it into 
the sea where he placed it under a rock on the reef. A more 
recent example is very similar. A man still living, named Jire 
Pilecar, who was, in a way, the successor of the man formerly 
mentioned, is said to have stopped a violent storm by using the 
leaves and bark of the Ficus laccifera in the same way, that is 
by crushing them and placing them under a rock in the sea. 
In both these cases it would seem that the rite was directed 
not against Biliku and Tarai, but against the Jurua. 

Apart from his power to communicate directly with the 
spirits, the oko-ju7nu owes his position to a superior knowledge 
of the magical properties of common substances and objects. 
This knowledge he is supposed to obtain from the spirits. 
However, a lesser degree of knowledge on such matters is 
possessed by everybody. Thus in the treatment of sickness 
there are a number of magical remedies of which anyone can 
make use without consulting an oko-jumu. 

A complete enumeration of all the things that are believed 
to possess magical properties is, of course, not possible, but the 
following notes refer to all the most important. 

We may consider first of all the magical properties of 
mineral substances. One of the most important of these is red 
ochre. Yellow ochre, which is found in pockets in many parts 
of the islands, is collected and burnt, when it turns red, and the 
powder so obtained is either used by itself or is made into a 
paint with pig or turtle fat. The powder is mixed with water and 
taken internally. Red paint is applied to the throat and chest 
for coughs and colds and sore throats, and round the ear for 
ear-ache. When a man feels unwell he often smears red paint 
on his upper lip just below his nostrils. In this way, the natives 
say, the " smell " of the paint cures his sickness. The paint is 
sometimes used as a dressing for wounds or centipede bites. Its 
use for ornamenting the body on ceremonial occasions has 
already been noted in the last chapter. 

In the North Andaman a soft red stone is found, called talar. 
This is used as a substitute for red paint. It is rubbed on the 
body, or it is powdered and the powder is mixed with water and 
taken internally. 

12 — 2 


White clay {tyl-odu in Aka-Jeru) is sometimes used medi- 
cinally, both externally and internally. The commoner clay 
{pdu in Aka-Jeru) is plastered on sores, and has the effect of 
keeping off flies, if it does nothing else. 

An olive-coloured earth (called culya in Aka-Bed), found in 
certain springs, is prized as a remedy. It is mixed with water 
and taken internally as a general remedy for all sorts of com- 

Turning now to the magical properties of vegetable sub- 
stances, there are a large number of these, and some of them 
have not been botanically identified. 

The Anadendron paniculatuni is a plant from which the 
Andamanese obtain a valuable fibre, which they use for their 
bow-strings, and for thread with which to make their arrows and 
harpoons. A number of magical properties are attributed to this 
plant. Rheumatism is supposed to be due to the "smell" of the 
plant getting into the system when the fibre is being prepared \ 
The " smell " of the green plant, or of the fibre until it has been 
thoroughly dried for some days, is believed to frighten away 
turtle. A man who has been preparing the fibre would not 
dream of joining a turtle-hunting expedition, for his presence in 
the canoe would be sufficient to drive away all the turtle. A 
turtle-hunting expedition would be a failure if a piece of the 
green creeper were in the canoe. A man who has been 
handling the plant may not cook turtle, for the meat would be 
" bad," i.e., uneatable. The same thing would happen if turtle 
meat accidentally came in contact with a piece of the plant. 
All this applies only to the green creeper, and not to the fibre 
after it has been properly prepared and dried. The fibre itself 
is used for binding the heads of turtle-harpoons, so it is evidently 
regarded as harmless. 

If a piece of the Anadendron creeper were burnt in the fire 
the natives believe that it would drive all the turtle away from 
the neighbourhood, or, according to another statement, that 
there would be a great storm. 

So far we have considered the properties of the plant only in 

^ In preparing the fibre, the skin or bark of the young shoots of the plant is torn 
off in strips and these are placed on the thigh and scraped with a Cyrena shell. 


SO far as they make it dangerous to handle. It has other and 
beneficial properties. It is said that a man swimming in waters 
infested with sharks would be safe from them if he had a piece 
of the Anadendron creeper with him, in his belt or necklace. 
The creeper is also supposed to preserve anyone who carries it 
from the attacks of the sea spirits {Jurud). 

The Hibiscus tiliacetis is a small tree from which the natives 
obtain the fibre which they make into rope, used now for harpoon 
lines and in former times for turtle-nets. The leaves of this 
tree are believed to have the power of keeping away the spirits 
of the sea. They have no efficacy, however, against the spirits 
of the forest. Leaves of the Hibiscus tiliaceus are used in the 
turtle-eating ceremony described in the last chapter. For cooking 
turtle the only wood that may be used is the Hibiscus. If any 
other wood were used the meat would not be good. In this 
connection it is necessary to point out an error in the statements 
of Mr Man. He says that the wood of the alaba must never be 
used for cooking turtle, though it may be used for cooking pig, 
and that Puluga is angry if this commandment is not observed 
and sends either the sun or moon to punish the offender^ There 
is evidently an error here. The alaba is the Hibiscus tiliaceus. 
Mr Man identifies it with the Melochia velutina, but this is an 
■«rror. Now the custom in connection with the Hibiscus {alaba) 
is not that it may not be used for cooking turtle, but that no 
other kind of wood must be used. It is difficult to see how 
Mr Man fell into the error, unless he mistook a statement re- 
garding the yolba {Anadendron paniculatum) for a statement 
relating to alaba {Hibiscus tiliaceus). We have just seen that 
if the Anadendron comes in contact with turtle meat the meat 
will be bad, and that if it is burnt there will be a storm. 

Another plant that provides fibre for thread is the Gnetum 
^dule. There is a belief that the green creeper of this plant will 
drive away turtle, if a piece of it be taken in a canoe. 

Magical properties are attributed to the Ficus laccifera tree. 
These trees are believed to be the home of the yet unborn souls 
of children. I was told in the North Andaman that if a tree of 

^ Man, op. cit. pp. 153 and 172. 


the species were cut there would be a storm. The bark of the 
aerial roots of the tree affords a fibre used in the Little Anda- 
man for bow-strings, but only used in the Great Andaman for 
making personal ornaments. It is possible that some magical 
properties are attributed to the ornaments made from this 

The Pterocarpus dalbergioides is one of the most striking 
trees of the Andamans. It has a very hard red wood, from 
which the natives make their sounding-boards. There is an 
obscure belief in the A-Pucikwar tribe (and possibly also in 
other tribes) that it is dangerous to look at the tree when it is 
in flower. I was twice told a story of how some people were 
affected by looking at the flowers, and either went mad or died.. 
On one occasion my interpreter translated the words of my 
informant by saying " They saw the flowers, and went giddy, 
and they all went to hell {J ereg-V ar-mugu)!' Men must be care- 
ful when the tree is in flower, not to look at it too long. In the 
North Andaman I was told that string games {jipre) must not 
be played when the Pterocarpus tree is in flower. They may be 
indulged in with safety at any other time of the year. (String 
games, according to one statement, were invented by the Lau, 
while another account attributes the invention to the crab.) 

The Tetraiithera lancoefolia is a small tree from which the 
natives obtain the wood for the shafts of their pig arrows. The 
leaves of this tree are believed to have the power to keep away 
the spirits of the forest. They are used in the pig-eating 
ceremony described in the last chapter. The wood is shredded 
and made into plumes, and these plumes are believed to have 
magical properties. They are worn by a man who has killed 
another, and are believed to protect him from the vengeance of 
the spirit of the dead man. 

A common remedy for sickness of different kinds is a small 
tx^Q zzS^^d. gugma in Aka-Bea, which Mr Man identifies as being 
Trigonostemon longifolius. The leaves of this tree are made 
into a bed for the patient to lie upon. They are also crushed 
and rubbed over the patient's body, or he is made to inhale the 
odour of the crushed leaves. The natives say that it is the 
" smell " of the plant that possesses medical properties. The 


"smell" will drive away turtle, and leaves should therefore not be 
taken in a canoe. A man who has been handling the leaves 
would not go turtle-hunting. 

Another remedy is a species of Alpinia. The leaves and 
stems of this plant are chewed and the juice swallowed for 
certain ailments. The plant is also used when taking honey. 
A man takes some of the leaves in his mouth and chews them 
well. Before taking the honeycomb he sprays the saliva from 
his mouth over and around it. He may also rub the chewed 
leaves over his body. The natives say that in this way they are 
able to prevent the bees from stinging them. 

Magical properties are attributed to a number of plants that 
have not been botanically identified. Thus the leaves of a small 
tree called tare in Aka-Jeru are crushed and moistened with 
water and rubbed over the body as a remedy for illness. A strip 
of bark from the same tree is tied round the chest of a man with 
a pain in his chest. The bark of two trees called (in Aka-Jeru) 
tip and laro is crushed and moistened and rubbed over a sick 
man's body. The leaves of a plant called pare are crushed with 
water and the infusion is drunk by persons suffering from 
diarrhoea and abdominal pains. A creeper called korotli is 
crushed and tied round a limb in cases of snake-bite. The 
seeds of the Entada scandens are heated in the fire and applied 
(while hot) to such wounds as that from the tusk of a boar. 

There are a certain number of trees and plants about which 
the natives say that any person cutting them will become blind. 
The names of four of these in Aka-Jeru are jin, burut, dey, and 

We may turn now to animals and animal substances^ 
Magical properties are attributed to bees'-wax, particularly to 
black bees'-wax. In a case of pleurisy black bees'-wax was 
heated until it was soft, and then smeared over the man's 
chest. Bees'-wax is believed to keep away the spirits of the 

If a man be bitten by a snake and the snake be killed it is 
skinned and the inner surface of the skin is applied to the 


A hiccough is supposed to be the result of inadvertently 
swallowing a tree lizard, whose call rather resembles the sound 
of a person hiccoughing. 

The condition popularly called " pins and needles " or de- 
scribed as an arm or leg "going to sleep" is believed by the 
Andamanese to be due to the bite of a rat. If a man wakes up 
in the night with one of his limbs benumbed in this way, he 
believes that a rat has bitten him while he slept. 

The Andamanese say that the bite of a civet-cat {Para- 
doxiirus) will produce cramp. I was once told that if a man 
eats the flesh of the civet-cat and then goes into the water he 
will become "lame." This means, I think, that he will have 
cramp, and so will be unable to swim. 

The flesh and particularly the fat of the flying fox {Pteropus) 
is believed to be a remedy for rheumatism. An old man who 
was suffering from this ailment once asked me to shoot for him 
some of these bats, which he cooked and ate. 

If turtle-fat be permitted to burn in the fire there will be a 

Mention has already been made of the magical value attri- 
buted to human bones. They are esteemed as a means of 
driving away spirits, and therefore of curing or preventing 
sickness. A human jaw-bone was hanging in my hut in such 
a position that it could swing in the wind. The natives attri- 
buted to this the illness from which I and several of them were 
suffering at the time, and asked me to put the bone away in a 
basket, where it could not move. 

Bones of animals are made into ornaments in the same way 
as human bones, and magical properties of a similar kind seem 
to be attributed to them. 

Of other objects possessing magical properties the most 
important is fire. Fire is believed to have the power of keeping 
away spirits of the sea and of the forest. A fire is always kept 
alight beside a sick man or woman. For dysentery stones 
are heated in a fire and the patient is required to defecate on to 

In conclusion, mention must be made of one favourite remedy 


of the Andamanese, namely scarification. The part of the body 
that is the seat of pain is scarified, as the forehead for headaches, 
the cheek for toothache. A number of very small incisions are 
made in the skin close together, with a sharp flake of quartz or 
glass. The incisions are just deep enough to cut through the 
skin and cause a little blood to ooze out, but not so deep as to 
produce a flow of blood. The operation is the work of women. 
It is probably more frequently used than any other remedy except 
red paint and human bones. 



The Andamanese have a number of stories which are told 
to the younger people by their elders and relate to the doings 
of their ancestors in a time long ago. Some of these stories are 
recorded in the present chapter. A difficulty in the way of giving 
any clear and readable account of them is the fact that there are 
many slightly different versions of one and the same legend. To 
some extent the variations are local, each tribe, and even each 
portion of a tribe having its own set of legendary stories. Besides 
these local variations there are also individual variations. Two 
men of the same tribe may relate what is substantially the same 
story, yet each chooses his own words and gestures, and to some 
extent they may even arrange the incidents differently. 

In the last chapter it was mentioned that there are certain 
individuals, known as oko-jumu in the North Andaman and 
oko-paiad in the South, who are believed to have special know- 
ledge as to the spirits and as to the magical efficacy of remedies 
for sickness. It is these oko-jumu also who are the authorities 
on the legendary lore of the Andamanese. In the case of 
magical remedies there is a certain common stock of beliefs 
as to the efficacy to be attributed to different substances, such 
as leaves of different plants, and on the basis of these beliefs 
the oko-jumu elaborates the remedies that he uses in particular 
cases. Each oko-jumu, however, prides himself on being, to 
some extent, original. An example of this has been already 
mentioned. When a great storm arose an oko-jumu of one of 
the Northern tribes succeeded in stopping it (in the belief of 



the natives) by placing a piece of the crushed stem of the 
Anadendron creeper under a particular stone in the sea. On 
a later occasion another storm arose, and the successor of the 
first-mentioned oko-juniu was appealed to that he might exert 
his powers. He did not simply imitate his predecessor, but he 
placed a piece of crushed bark and twigs of the Ficus laccifera 
in the sea under a different stone. In very much the same way 
there is a common stock of beliefs as to the events that took 
place in the time of the ancestors, but each oko-jumu builds up 
on this basis his own particular set of legends, so that it is 
rarely that two of them tell the same story in the same way. 
An oko'jumu may obtain for himself a reputation by relating 
legends of the ancestors in a vivid and amusing way. Such 
a man would be able to invent new stories by combining to- 
gether in his own way some of the traditional incidents. The 
desire on the part of each oko-jumu to be original and so to 
enhance his own reputation is a fertile source of variation in 
the legends. 

This lack of traditional form, which is a very important 
characteristic of the Andamanese mythology, may be com- 
pared with their lack of traditional songs. Just as every man 
composes his own songs, so, within certain limits, every oko-jumu 
relates in his own way the legends of his tribe. But whereas 
every man is a composer of songs, only a certain number are 
regarded as having authority to speak on the legends. 

Underlying the legends of any tribe there are a certain 
number of beliefs or representations with which every native 
is familiar. It is on the basis of these that the oko-jumu 
elaborates his own doctrine, if we may call it so, which he 
hands on to his followers, who in turn may become oko-jumu 
and produce further slight modifications of their own. Thus 
the legends are continually being changed, though in any one 
generation the changes introduced are slight, and it would take 
a long time for important changes in belief to be brought about. 
There is evidence, however, that a succession of leading men 
in the A-Pucikwar tribe have succeeded in introducing a new 
doctrine as to the weather, making Bilik the name of a class 
of beings instead of the name of a single being, and that this 


doctrine, while it has not entirely ousted the former beliefs, has 
yet succeeded in gaining currency not only in the A-Pucikwar 
tribe, but also in the Aka-Kol and Oko-Juwoi tribes. 

At the present time it is only possible to recover a small 
part of the many different legends with their variants. The 
introduction of many new interests into the lives of the natives, 
through the European settlement and the many changes it has 
produced, has caused the ancient legends to be neglected. Most 
of the old oko-jumu have died without leaving any followers to 
take their place. Many of the legends recorded here are merely 
what some of the men not specially skilled in legendary lore can 
remember of the stories told them in former days by oko-jumu 
who are now dead. 

One feature of the legends that must be pointed out is 
their unsystematic nature. The same informant may give, on 
different occasions, two entirely different versions of such a 
thing as the origin of fire, or the beginning of the human race. 
The Andamanese, to all appearance, regard each little story as 
independent, and do not consciously compare one with another. 
They thus seem to be entirely unconscious of what are obvious 
contradictions to the student of the legends. It is necessary 
to emphasise the fragmentary and unsystematic nature of the 
Andaman mythology because Mr Man, in his work on the 
Andamanese, has brought together a number of legends from 
the tribes of the South Andaman and has combined them 
into a continuous and fairly consistent narrative, and has thus, 
undoubtedly not intentionally, given a wrong impression to the 
reader of what the nature of the disconnected stories really 
is. While each of the stories included in Mr Man's account 
is derived directly from the natives, it would seem certain 
that the arrangement of them into a more or less consistent 
narrative is due to Mr Man. 

In recording the legends in this chapter, only the English 
translation is given. In some cases the legends were translated 
on the spot and written down in English. In other cases they 
were written down in the native language and then translated. 
When I was recording the legends I very frequently had to 
ask what was meant by a particular statement, the meaning of 


which might be quite clear to a native, but which was obscure 
to one not accustomed to thinking in the same way as the 
natives. In some cases I could obtain no satisfactory explana- 
tion, and such legends are given in this chapter in as nearly as 
possible an exact literal translation of the original. In other 
cases the explanations given by the natives have been incor- 
porated in the translation itself. 

In order to give the reader a fair idea of the nature of the 
legends as they are told, one is here given in the native language 
{Aka-Cari) with a word-for-word translation. 

A Maia Dik ijokoduko ; konmo tec injuktertoia ; 

Sir Prawn makes fire; yam leaf catches fire; 

konmo tec bi ikterbie; kete uijoko; uijokobiko ; 

yam leaf is dry; that one it burns; he makes a fire; 

Maia Dik ubenoba; Maia Totemo emato; ujokil uektebalo ; 
Sir Prawn slept ; Sir Kingfisher takes ; he fire with he 

runs away 
Maia Totemo jokobiko; Maia Totemo tajeo itbiko ; 

Sir Kingfisher makes a fire; Sir Kingfisher fish (food) cooks; 

upetil ubeno; Maia Mite juktebalo uemato. 

his belly in he sleeps; Sir Dove runs away taking. 

The above translation is hardly comprehensible without a 
little explanation. The word ijoko means "something burns," 
the word ubiko means "he cooks (by roasting)." The com- 
pound ijokobiko may mean either "he makes a fire and cooks 
something at it "or it may simply mean "he makes up a fire 
(by adding firewood)." The word ijokoduko has a quite different 
meaning, "to produce fire." The derivation of injuktertoia is 
uncertain, as I am not sure of the proper use of er-tgia; it is 
translated on the basis of the explanation given me by the 
man who told the story. The word ikterbie is descriptive of 
the dryness of dead leaves. 

A free translation would be as follows : " It was Sir Prawn 
who first produced or obtained fire. Some yam leaves, being 
shrivelled and dry by reason of the hot weather, caught fire 
and burnt. The prawn made a fire with some firewood and 


. went to sleep. The kingfisher stole fire and ran away with it. 
He made a fire and cooked some fish. When he had filled his 
belly he went to sleep. The dove stole fire from the kingfisher 
and ran away." It is implied that it was the dove who gave 
the fire to the ancestors of the Andamanese. 

Versions of legends of the origin of fire are given by 
Mr Portman, in each of the languages of the Southern group 
of tribes \ 

All the legends relate to events that are supposed to have 
happened in the past, and deal with the doings of the ancestors 
of the Andamanese. In the North Andaman the ancestors are 
sometimes called Lau ier-kuro^ i.e. the big spirits, " big " being 
used in the sense of our word " chief" Another term for them 
is N'a-mai-koloko, from n' or nio = they, aka-mai = father, and 
koloko = people, so that the phrase literally means " the father 
people," or the ancestors. In the South Andaman the ancestors 
are sometimes called Cauga tabaya, which is the equivalent of 
Lau fer-kuro. Mr Man seems to have misunderstood the exact 
meaning of this term. He writes: "Laci Lora-lola, the chief of 
the survivors from the Deluge^, gave, at his death, the name 

of Cauga tabaya to their descendants The Cauga tabaya are 

described as fine tall men with large beards, and they are said 
to have been long lived, but, in other respects and in their mode 
of living they did not differ from the present inhabitants. The 
name seems to have been borne till comparatively recent times, 
as a few still living are said to remember having seen the last 
of the so-called Cauga tabaya^." 

Mr Man has evidently not realised that the term cauga 
cannot be applied to any living Andamanese, but may be 
applied to every dead one. The Cauga are the spirits of dead 
natives, and new Cauga are continually coming into existence 
by death. Any person who is of such importance when alive 
as to form the subject of legends or stories after his death may 
be distinguished (after his death only) as a Cauga tabaya. The 
name may thus be applied to the purely mythical ancestors 
of the legends, and also to the spirits of men recently dead 

1 Portman, Notes on the Languages., etc. p. 97. 

'^ The legend will be given later. ^ Man, op. cit. p. 169. 


whose memory is preserved owing to fame acquired in some 
way when they were alive. It is thus possible that some of 
the natives with whom Mr Man formerly conversed are now 
Cauga tabaya, i.e. big spirits, having been " big men " when they 
were alive. 

Another name sometimes used in the South Andaman to 
denote the ancestors is Tomo-la}. This word, however, is 
sometimes used in the singular to denote the mythical first 
man. Its use is thus similar to that of the name Bilik in 
the A-Pucikwar tribe, which is used both as the name of 
a single mythical being and also as the name of a class 
of beings. Only the early ancestors of the Andamanese, 
i.e. those about whom the legends are related, can be called 

Among the ancestors who appear in the legends there are 
a few who bear names that are used as personal names of 
men and women at the present time, and who appear in the 
legends simply as men and women. The larger number of 
the ancestors, however, bear names that are those of species 
of animals. In each case the ancestor is identified with the 
species which bears the same name. Yet others of the 
mythical ancestors have names that are neither personal names 
at the present day, nor names of animals. It may perhaps be 
supposed that in all such cases the name has some sort of 
meaning, but in many instances it was not found possible to 
discover the meaning with certainty. 

When speaking of the ancestors, the natives generally add 
to the name the appropriate title. These titles are, in the North 
Andaman Maia (Sir) and Mimi (Lady), in Akar-Bale Da (Sir) 
and In (Lady), and in Aka-Bea Maia and Cana. 

There are legends as to the origin of mankind, i.e., of 
their own race, for they did not recognize, until recently, the 
existence of any men of other races than their own, calling 
aliens Lau (spirits). There is, however, no unanimity in their 
beliefs as to how mankind originated, even in any one tribe. 
An Aka-Bo legend is as follows: 

^ The suffix -la is added to personal names and to terms of address in order to 
express respect. 


" The first man was Jutpu^. He was born inside the joint 
of a big bamboo, just Hke a bird in an ^gg"^. The bamboo spHt 
and he came out. He was a little child. When it rained he 
made a small hut for himself and lived in it. He made little 
bows and arrows. As he grew bigger he made bigger huts, and 
bigger bows and arrows. One day he found a lump of quartz 
and with it he scarified himself. Jutpu was lonely, living all 
by himself He took some clay {kot) from a nest of the white 
ants and moulded it into the shape of a woman. She became 
alive and became his wife. She was called Kot. They lived 
together at Teraut-buliu. Afterwards Jutpu made other people 
out of clay. These were the ancestors. Jutpu taught them 
how to make canoes and bows and arrows, and how to hunt 
and fish. His wife taught the women how to make baskets 
and nets and mats and belts, and how to use clay for making 
patterns on the body." 

The same ~ story was told me by Aka-Jeru men, the only 
difference being that they gave the name of the place where 
Jutpu lived differently, mentioning a spot in the Aka-Jeru 

From the Akajeru I also obtained what is really another 
version of the same legend, though the name of the first ancestor 
is given differently. "The first man came out of the buttress 
of a pqico {Steradia) tree, and was called Poicotobut {Sterculia 
buttress). He had no wife, so he cohabited with an ant's nest 
{kot) and thus obtained a large number of children. These 
were the first Andamanese, and Poicotobut taught them all 
their arts and customs. Poicotobut lived at Boroy Buliu (in 
Aka-Jeru country)." 

The association between the origin of the Andamanese 
and an ant's nest {kot) is retained in another legend, told 
by an Akajeru man. " Tarai (the south-west monsoon) was 
the first man. His wife was Kot. They lived at Tarai-era- 

1 The name seems to mean "alone." 

2 The giant bamboo does not grow in the Andamans, but pieces of it are often 
drifted ashore, having come from the coast of Burma. The natives pick up these 
drift-wood bamboos and make buckets of them. It is possible that the bamboo from 
which the first man was born was just such a piece drifted up from the sea. 
Unfortunately I neglected to enquire on this point when taking down the legend. 


poy^. Their children were Tau (the sky), Bqto (wind), Piribi 
(storm), and Air (the foam on a rough sea)." 

An entirely different legend, of which, however, I could not 
obtain a detailed version, is also found in the Aka-Jeru tribe. 
This is to the effect that the first living being was Maia 
Cara-. He made the earth, and caused it to be peopled with 
inhabitants. He also made the sun and moon. In the last 
chapter Cara was mentioned as a mythical being associated 
with the sun, with daylight and with fine weather. One of my 
informants of the Aka-Jeru tribe said that Cara had a wife 
named Nhni (a common personal name), and that his children 
were Ceo (knife), Ino (water), Loto^ and Luk. It is Maia Cara, 
according to one commonly received account, who makes the 
daylight every day. 

I could not obtain any Aka-Kede legend as to the origin of 
mankind. One informant of that tribe said that it was Bilika 
(the north-east monsoon) who made the world and the first men 
and women, but he could give me no detailed legend. 

In the Aka-Kol and A-Pucikwar tribes there are several 
versions of a legend that makes the monitor lizard ( Varanus 
salvator) the progenitor of the Andaman race. In all the ver- 
sions there is no miention of how the lizard himself originated. 
The following was told me by an Aka-Kol man. "When 
Ta Peti (Sir Monitor Lizard) was aka-goi (i.e. unmarried, but 
having completed the initiation ceremonies), he went into the 
jungle to hunt pig. He climbed up a Dipterocarpus tree, and 
got stuck therel Beyan (civet-cat, Paradoxurus) found him 
there, stuck in the tree. She released him and helped him to 
get down. The two got married. Their children were the 
Tomo-la (i.e. the ancestors)." 

Another legend telling how the monitor lizard obtained a wife 
was related to me on more than one occasion by A-Pucikwar 
men. "The first of the ancestors {Tomo-la) was Ta Pette (Sir 
Monitor Lizard). He lived at Tomo-la-tog. At first he had 

^ The meaning of the name is "the cave of Tarai" ; I believe that this is the 
name of a spot in the Aka-Jeru country. 

^ The meaning of the name was not discovered. 

^ The lizard was caught in some way by his genital organs, but I was unable to 
understand the story completely. 

B. A. 13 


no wife. One day, when he was out fishing, he found a piece 
of black wood of the kind called kolotat {Diospyros sp.). He 
found it in the creek, and brought it to his hut, where he put 
it on the little platform over the fire\ He sat down by the 
fire and set to work over an arrow that he was making. As 
he bent over his work he did not see what was happening. By 
and by he heard some one laugh, and looked up. Then he 
saw that the piece of wood had turned into a woman. He 
got up and took her down from the platform. She sat down 
with him and became his wife. They had a son named Poi 
(a species of small bird, possibly a woodpecker), and afterwards 
many other children. They lived together for a long time at 
Tomo-la-tog. One day Ta Petie went fishing and was drowned 
in the creek. He turned into a kara-duku." 

There is some doubt about the translation of the word 
kara-duku. It is an Aka-Bea word, although it was used as 
given above, by an A-Pucikwar man. Mr Man translates it 
" cachalot." Mr Portman says that kara-duku is " crocodile," 
but that the cachalot, the proper name of which is biriga-ta, is 
also sometimes called kara-duku"^. The only authority for the 
existence of crocodiles in the Andamans is the statement of 
Mr Portman, who says that the natives killed one in the Middle 
Andaman and brought the bones to him. Although I was in 
many of the creeks of the Andamans at different times I never 
saw a crocodile, and none of the other officers of the Settlement, 
who have repeatedly explored a large part of the islands, ever 
seems to have seen one, so that the one recorded by Mr Portman 
may possibly have been a single one that had come oversea from 
the mainland of Asia. 

Another A-Pucikwar account of the origin of the first woman 
Kolotat, is as follows: "At first there were no women, only men. 
A man called Kolotat came to live in the A-Pucikwar country. 
Ta Petie (Sir Monitor Lizard) caught him and cut off his genitals 
and made him into a woman. She became his wife. Their 
children were the first of the ancestors {Tomo-la)" 

^ This is the small platform of sticks placed near or above ihe fire, on which the 
natives keep their food, and on which they often place objects that they desire to dry. 
^ Notes on the Languages, etc. p. 227. 


Another account given by members of the A-Pucikwar 
tribe is that the first man was Tomo, or Tomo-la. One version 
that I heard is that Tomo made the world and peopled it with 
the ancestors. He made the moon {Puki) who is his wife. 
Tomo and his wife invented all the arts of the Andamanese and 
taught them to the ancestors. After his death Tomo went to 
live in the sky, where he now is. It is Tomo who sends the 
fine weather, while Bilik sends the bad weather. In the world 
where Tomo now lives it is always daylight and is always fine. 
When men die their spirits go up to the sky and live with 
Tomo. The man who gave me this version said that he did 
not know how Tomo originated, but was quite sure that he was 
not made by Bilik. Tomo came first and Bilik came afterwards. 
The Andamanese are all the children of Tomo^. 

In disagreement with this story, another man of the same 
tribe said that Tomo was made by Bilik. He (i.e., Tomo) 
had a wife Mita (Dove), and they were the ancestors of the 
Andamanese. Yet another informant said : " Ta Tomo was 
the first man. He made bows and arrows and canoes. His 
canoes were made of the wood of the Pandanus tree. Mita 
(Dove) was his wife. It was she who first made nets and 
baskets and discovered the uses of red paint and white clay." 
When I asked how Tomo and his wife originated my informant 
replied that he did not know. 

A species of bird (perhaps a woodpecker), called Pqi in 
A-Pucikwar and Koio in Aka-Kol, is often said to have been 
the son of Tomo. I was once told that Koio was the first 
of the Andamanese, from whom they are all descended, and 
that his wife was Mita. Another informant said that Petie 
(Monitor Lizard) was the first man and Mita was his wife, 
while still another stated that Ta Mita (Sir Dove) was 
the progenitor of the race, making the dove male instead of 
female. These different versions will give some idea of the 

^ When an old man of the A-Pucikwar tribe was giving me the information 
repeated above, an Andamanese man was with us who had been brought up as 
a Christian and had some knowledge of the doctrines of that faith. He explained to 
me that Tomo is the equivalent of the Christian God. This man belonged to the 
Akar-Bale tribe. 



contradictory nature of the statements of the Andamanese. All 
of them come from only two tribes, the A-Pucikiuar and the 

From the Akar-Bale tribe I obtained the following legend. 
^^ Puluga made the first of the ancestors. He made one man 
and one woman called Nyali and Irap'^. He gave them fire, 
and taught them how to hunt and fish, and how to make bows 
and arrows and baskets and nets. The place where they lived 
is called Irap because they lived there ^." 

Another Akar-Bale version is that the first man was Da 
Duku (Sir Monitor Lizard), and that his wife was In Bain 
(Lady Civet-cat). 

Mr E. H. Man, in his account of the South Andaman, says 
that there are a few discrepancies in their accounts of the 
creation and origin of the human species, but in the main 
features all the natives with whom he spoke are agreed. The 
world was created by Puluga^ who then made a man named 
Tomo, the first of the human race. To7no was black, like the 
present Andamanese, but was much taller and bearded. Puluga 
showed him the various fruit-trees in the jungle, which then 
existed only at Wota-emi, a spot in the country oi the A-Pucikwar 
tribe. The wife of Tomo was Cana Elewadi (Lady Crab), and 
as to her origin there are different legends. According to some, 
Puluga created her after he had taught Tomo how to sustain 
life ; others say that Tomo saw her swimming near his home 
and called to her, whereupon she landed and lived with him ; 
while a third story represents her as coming pregnant to 
Kyd Island, where she gave birth to several male and female 
children, who subsequently became the progenitors of the 
present race, Tomo had two sons and two daughters by 
Cana Elewadi \ the names of the former were Biro-la and 
Boro-la, and of the latter Rie-la and Cormi-la. 

A story that tells how Tomo came to his end states that 

^ These names are common personal names among the aborigines of the present 
day. Mr Portman derives Nyali from nam-da, the name of a tree, and Irap from 
pira-da meaning "scattered," but these derivations are far from being authenticated. 
(Portman, Notes on the Languages of the South Andatnan Group of Tribes, p. 70.) 

^ The place called Irap is at the north end of Havelock Island. 


one day, while hunting, he fell into the creek called Yara-tig-jig 
and was drowned. He was at once transformed into a kara- 
diiku (which Mr Man translates as "cachalot"). Cana Elewadi, 
ignorant of the accident that had befallen her husband, went in 
a canoe with some of her grandchildren to ascertain the cause of 
his continued absence ; on seeing them, Kara-duku upset their 
skiff and drowned his wife and most of her companions. She 
became a small crab, of a description still named after her, 
£lewadiy and the others were transformed into lizards (duku). 
Another version of this story is that, wearied with an unsuc- 
cessful day's hunting, Tomo went to the shore, where he found 
a cidi (Pinna) shell-fish ; while playing with it, it fastened on 
him, and he was unable to free himself until a baian (Para- 
doxurus) seized the cidi and liberated him at the expense of 
one of his members. Shortly after this he saw his wife and 
some of their children coming after him in a canoe; unwilling 
that they should become aware of the misfortune that had 
befallen him he upset the canoe, drowning its occupants and 
himself. He then became kara-duku, and the others duku, which 
are now plentiful in the jungles \ 

In some of the preceding legends reference is made to 
Biliku or Puluga, There is a very general belief, in all parts 
of the islands, that in the time of the ancestors, Biliku or 
Puluga lived on earth. Each tribe has at least one spot in 
its territory that is pointed out as the place where Biliku (or 
Puluga) lived. In some tribes there are three or four such 
places, each of which is claimed as the original home of Biliku 
by the people living in the neighbourhood. In many cases the 
name of the spot contains a reference to the legend, as Puluga 
rod-baraij {the village oi Puluga) in Akar-Bale or Biliku era-poy 
(the cave oi Biliku^ in the North Andaman. 

I was able to obtain a few legends relating to the time when 
Biliku lived on earth, though there were probably many more 
that I was not fortunate enough to hear. 

The following is an Aka-Jeru legend : 

"In the time of the ancestors Biliku lived at Ar-kol. One 
day the people caught a turtle and brought it to the camp. 

^ Man, op. cit. p. 164. 


Biliku was sitting there. They asked her if she would eat 
some of it. She said * No.' They put the meat in the roof 
of the hut and went away. When they had gone Biliku ate 
the whole turtle. Then she went to sleep. The people came 
back and found the turtle gone. They said ^Biliku has eaten 
it.' They left the camp and all went to Tebi-ciro. They left 
Biliku asleep. Some of the people went to hunt for turtle. 
Their canoe passed near Ar-kol. Biliku saw the people in the 
canoe. She called to them and asked to be taken with them. 
The people refused saying 'You ate up all the turtle.' Biliku 
had a round stone and several be shells (pearl shells). She 
threw the shells at the people in the canoe. The first shell 
did not hit them but came back and fell at her feet; and so 
also with the second. Then Biliku got very angry and threw 
a third time. The shell struck the canoe and killed all the 
people in it. The canoe and its occupants became a reef of 
rocks that is still there. The other people at Tebi-ciro called 
across to Biliku saying 'Come over here.' She answered 'Very 
well ! I am coming.' She took the stone that she had and 
put it in the sea, and it floated. She got on to it to cross 
over. When she had got half way across Biliku and her stone 
sank in the sea. They became two big rocks that are there 
still." This legend refers to the west coast of the North 
Andaman. The pearl shells that Biliku throws seem to be 
lightning, and the round stone the one that she rolls about to 
make thunder. 

A few other statements about Biliku and Tarai from the 
four tribes of the North Andaman are given below just as 
they were taken down in my note-books. 

(i) '■'Biliku lived at Pura-ra-poy in the time of the an- 
cestors. Her husband was Perjido and her children Totaimo, 
Mite (cicada) and Tarai. She made the sun and the moon. 
It was she who first invented all the things that are now 
made and used by women, such as baskets, nets, etc., and it 
was she who discovered fire, and who first discovered the 
use of edible roots such as konmo and mino (two species of 

(2) "Biliku used to live at Caura. She had a husband 


Tarai and a son Perjido, and a daughter Mite. She used to 
live only on certain vegetable foods, lotto, pata, but, co, konmo 
and mino and others. It was Biliku who made the earth (the 
forest, ti-miku). She began at CauraV 

(3) ''Biliku lived at Ar-Kol in the time of the ancestors. 
Her husband was Tarai and their children were the birds, 
Toroi, Taka, Cotot, Poruatoko, Kelil, Mite, Copcura, Benye, 
Biratkoro, Cereo, Milidu, Bobelo, Kola, and Teo" {Aka-Jeni) 

(4) "Biliku lived at Poroket. She was unmarried. ^ She 
had a son Perjido, and her other children were Toroi, Celene, 
Cotot and Cerei. (These four are the names of birds.) It was 
Perjido who invented all the arts of the Andamanese such as 
their bows and arrows, etc." (Aka-Bo?.) 

(5) ''Biliku used to live at Pec-meo with her husband Torqi 
(a bird). She used to eat Iqito, and when anyone else ate that 
root she was angry. Tarai lived at Caroya with his wife Kelil 
(a bird). He ate only mikuluy {Aka-Kgra.) 

(6) "Tarai has very long legs and a short body. He used 
to live on a small island beyond Interview Island, which is now 
submerged. When Tarai goes to sleep he breathes very heavily 
and this makes the wind." 

The next is an Aka-Kede legend. "In the days of the 
ancestors Bilika lived at Purum-at-cape in the Aka-Kede 
country, with her husband Porokul. One day Porokul was 
out hunting. He returned with a pig that he had killed and 
came to the creek on the other side of which was his home 
{Coti-ter-buli Buliu). Laden as he was with the pig he could 
not swim across the creek. Bilika was sleeping, but her 
children were playing near and saw their father on the other 
side of the creek. They ran and told their mother that their 
father was coming but could not cross the creek. Bilika went 
and lay down on one bank of the creek and stretched out her 
leg so that it reached the other bank. Porokul walked across 
her leg and so reached home." 

While it is clear from this legend that Bilika was of super- 
human size, the same was also true of her husband, if we may 
judge from another legend. "Porokul made for himself a bow 
(of the large southern pattern), with which to shoot pig. At 


this time the sky was low down near the earth, only just above 
the tops of the trees. When Porokul had finished his bow he 
lifted it upright The top of it struck the sky and lifted it up 
to its present position where it has remained ever since." 

In another legend from another part of the Aka-Kede tribe 
Bilika is spoken of as being male. "Bilika lived at Poroy-et-co 
with his wife Mite. They had a child. The ancestors ate 
Bilika! s food, loito and kata and other plants. Bilika was very 
angry. He used to smell their mouths to see if they had eaten 
his food. When he found a man or woman who had done so 
he would cut his throat. The ancestors were very angry with 
Bilika, because he killed the men and women when they ate his 
foods. They all came together and killed Bilika and his wife 
Mite. Maia Burio (a species of fish) took the child (of Bilika) 
away to the north-east." 

Owing to my lack of knowledge of the Aka-Kede language 
there are some points of the above legend that remain obscure. 
I think that the child of Bilika is also named Bilika, and that 
it is he (or she) who now lives in the north-east and sends the 
storms. The plants {loito, kata, etc.), called here the " food " of 
Bilika, are those mentioned in the last chapter as specially 
belonging to Bilika, who is angry when the natives eat them. 
As regards the name, Mite, of Bilikds wife, I do not know 
whether this is the name of the bronze-winged dove, or of the 
cicada. In some of the Andamanese languages the names of 
these two are very similar, the only difference being a very 
slight one in the way of pronouncing the two vowels. 

The A-Pucikwar people who live on the east coast of 
Baratang Island say that in the beginning the ancestors lived 
at a place called Wota-emi, and Bilik lived opposite to them 
across the strait at a place called Tol-V oko-tima. In a rock 
at Wota-emi there is a large peculiarly shaped hollow. This is 
said to be where Bilik used to sit when he was on earth. 

An Akar-Bale legend is as follows. " In the days of the 
ancestors Puluga lived at Jila off the east coast of Henry 
Lawrence Island and the ancestors lived at Puluga Vod-baraij 
(the village of Puluga) on the main island just opposite to 
Jila. Puluga was always getting angry with the ancestors, 


because they dug up yams and ate cakan {Entada scandens) 
and barata {Caryoia soboliferd). When he was angry he used 
to destroy their huts and property. So the people sent him out 
of the world, saying 'We do not want you here. You are always 
angry with us.' Puluga went away to the north-east." 

It is worth while to note that Jila is north-east from Puluga 
Vod-baraij, just as Tql-l' oko-tima is north-east from Wota-emi. 
In both cases there is a narrow strait between the place where 
the ancestors lived and the home of Puluga or Bilik. 

There are a number of different legends that relate how the 
ancestors first obtained fire^ In many of these legends there is 
a reference to Biliku or Puluga. A common statement in the 
North Andaman is that " Fire was stolen from Biliku by Maia 
Tiritmo (Sir Kingfisher)." Some of the legends ^\\q further 
details. An Aka-Cari legend is as follows : 

"Biliku had a red stone and a pearl shell {be). She struck 
them together and obtained fire. She collected firewood and 
made a fire. She went to sleep. Mite (the bronze-winged dove) 
came and stole fire. He made a fire for himself He gave fire 
to all the people in the village. Afterwards fire was given to 
all the places. Each village had its own." 

The next is an Aka-Jeru version. 

" In the days of the ancestors they had no fire. Biliku had 
fire. While Biliku slept Maia Lircitino (Sir Kingfisher) came 
and stole fire. As he was taking the fire Biliku awoke and saw 
him. Lircitjno swallowed the fire. Biliku took a pearl shell {be) 
and threw it at Lircitino and cut off his head. The fire came 
out (of his neck). Ther^ncestors got the fire. Lircitmo became 
a bird." ' ""^-^ 

The next is also, I believe, an Aka-Jeru story. "Maia 
Tiritmo (Sir Kingfisher) lived at Tolepar Buruin. He had no 
fire. When he caught fish he had no fire with which to cook 
it. He went to the place where Cokcura (heron) lived. There 
was no fire there. Tiritmo took some rotten wood of the pin 

^ Until the settlement of Europeans on the islands the Andamanese had no 
knowledge of any means of producing fire. It is necessary to remember this to 
understand some of their legends which relate how in the time of the ancestors the 
fire was very nearly lost in a heavy storm. 


tree and hit it on a rock, and thus made fire. He gave fire to 
Cokcura. Cqkcura gave fire to Totemo (a species of kingfisher), 
Totemo gave it to all the others. 

A slightly different and less detailed version of the same 
story is as follows: 

"Tiritmo made fire. Totemo stole fire (from Tiritmo) and 
gave it to Moico (Rail). Moico gave fire to all the people." 

The next version, which was taken down in Aka-Jeru, I did 
not fully understand. 

"Some one shot an arrow. The arrow hit the hill of fire. 
TiriA (a species of kingfisher) found the arrow. It was on 
fire. He took the fire to his camp. He would not give fire 
to any one. The others asked him. They went to their 
homes. At night they came to Tirifis hut and stole fire. 
They went away, each to his own place." 

There is a certain amount of obscurity about two other 
versions, which are given in a translation as nearly literal as 
possible. "■ Maia Dik (Sir Prawn) made fire. Some kqnmo 
(yam) leaves caught fire, being dry. Maia Dik made a fire. 
Maia Dik slept. Maia Totemo (Sir Kingfisher) stole fire and 
ran away. Maia Totemo made a fire. He cooked fish. When 
he had eaten, he slept. Maia Mite (Sir Dove) stole fire (from 
Totemo^ and ran away. 

The other is as follows. "Piribi got fire from a stone. He 
threw fire at Bilika. It set some kqnmo (yam) leaves on fire. 
Cqrolo (Parrot) got fire (from the burning leaves). He gave it 
to the ancestors." 

These two legends were taken down in Aka-Cari, but they 
are perhaps really Aka-Kqra or Aka-Jeru stories. I have the 
word piribi in my notes as meaning a storm, but the translation 
is doubtful. 

The next is an Aka-Kede version of what is the most wide- 
spread of the legends. 

" The ancestors had no fire. Bilika had fire. The ancestors 
tried to steal fire from Bilika. Lirtit (Kingfisher) went one 
night while Bilika was sleeping and stole fire. Bilika awoke 
and saw him going away with the fire. She threw a pearl shell 
{ba^ at him, which cut off his wings and his tail. Lirtit dived 


into the water and swam with the fire to Bet- ra-kudu and gave 
it to Tepe. Tepe gave fire to Mite (the bronze-winged dove). 
Mite gave it to the others^" 

An Aka-Kede legend of the origin of the sun may con- 
veniently be given in this place, as it is connected with the 
possession of fire by Bilika. "■ Bilika made fire of purum wood. 
One day, when she was very angry, she started throwing fire 
about. One large fire-brand she threw into the sky, and there 
t became the sun." This legend explains the name of the 
place Purum-at-cape, at which Bilika is said to have lived when 
on earth. Purum is the name of a tree, not identified ; at means 
either " fire " or " fire-wood," and cape means a village or a hut. 
The whole word therefore means "Purum fire village." 

I did not obtain any legend of the origin of fire from the 
Oko-Juwoi and Aka-Kol tribes, but a version from each of 
these tribes has been given by Mr Portman. A translation of 
Mr Portman's Oko-Juwoi story is as follows'*. "'Mom. Mirit^ 
stole a fire-brand from Kuro-fon-mika while Bilik was sleeping. 
He gave the brand to the late Lee, who then made fire at 

Mr Portman's Aka-Kol story is somewhat obscure. "Bilik 
was sleeping at Tol-Voko-tim,a. Luratut (Kingfisher) took away 
fire to Oko-emi. Kolotat went to Min-torj-ta (taking with him 
fire from Oko-emi). At Min-tgy-ta the fire went out. Kolotat 
broke up the charred firewood and made fire again (by blowing 
up the embers). They (the people there) became alive. Owing 
to the fire they became alive. The ancestors {Jayil) thus got 
fire at Min-toy-ta village." 

From '(h& A-Ptdikwar Xx'^Q. I only obtained one version of 
the fire legend. " When the ancestors lived at Wota-emi, Bilik 
lived at Tol-V oko-tim.a across the strait. In those days the 
ancestors had no fire. Bilik took some wood of the tree 
called perat and broke it and made fire for himself. Luratut 
(Kingfisher) came to Tol-V oko-tima while Bilik was sleeping and 
stole some fire. Bilik awoke and saw Luratut. He {Bilik) took 

^ I understood that Lirtit, by the loss of his wings and tail, became a man. 

^ Portman, loc. cit. 

^ Mom is a title indicating respect, aud Mirit is the imperial pigeon. 


up a lighted brand and threw it at Luratut. It hit him in the 
back of the neck and burnt him. Luratut gave the fire to the 
people at Wota-emi. Bilik was very angry about this and went 
away to live in the sky." 

The kingfisher of the story {Alcedo beavaniT) has a patch 
of bright red feathers on its neck. This is where it was burnt 
by the brand thrown by Bilik. 

Mr Portman gives a slightly different version from the same 
tribes "'Bilik was sleeping at Tql-l' oko-tima. Luratut went to 
bring fire. He caught hold of the fire, and in doing so burnt 
Bilik. Bilik awoke and seized some fire. He hit Luratut -wiih. 
the fire. Then he hit Tarcal (a fish) with the fire. Calter 
(another species of kingfisher) caught hold of the fire. He gave 
it to the ancestors at Wota-emi. The ancestors made fires." 

From the Akar-Bale tribe I obtained the following legend : 
" The people had no fire. Dini-dqri (a fish) went and fetched 
fire from Jereg-Var-mugu (the place of departed spirits). He 
came back and threw the fire at the people and burnt them, 
and marked them all. The people ran into the sea and became 
fishes. Dim-dori went to shoot them with his bow and arrows, 
and he also became a fish." This story is supposed to account 
for the bright colouring of certain species of fish. 

Mr Portman gives a somewhat similar version from the 
same tribe I Dim-dora (a fish), a very long time ago, at 
Keri-Voy -tower, was bringing fire from Puluga's platform (fire- 
place). He, taking the fire, burnt everybody with it. Bolub 
and Tarkor and Bilicau fell into the sea and became fishes. 
They took the fire to Rokwa-Var-toya village and made fires 

Another Akar-Bale legend is that fire was given to the first 
ancestors {Da Duku and Ln Baiti) by Puluga. Still another is 
that fire was obtained by the ancestors from Aga, the skink 
{Mabuia tytleri). The mist that is often seen hanging over the 
jungle in small patches, after rain or at dawn, is said to be the 
smoke of Agds fire. Kx\ island in the Archipelago is called 
Aga rod-baraij, Agds village. 

1 Portman, loc. cit. ^ Ibid. 


Mr Portman gives an Aka-Bea legend, which, however, 
relates that the events took place at Wota-emi in the A- 
Pucikwar country^ 

"Puluga was asleep sXTol-r oko-tima, Luratut came, stealing 
fire. The fire burnt Puluga. Puhiga awoke. Puluga seized 
some fire. Taking the fire he burnt Luratut with it. Luratut 
took the fire. He burnt Tar-ceker (another kind of kingfisher) 
with it in Wota-emi village. The ancestors lit fires. They (the 
ancestors) were the Tofno-la." 

Mr Man gives three different versions of legends as to the 
origin of fire. According to the first of these, Puluga, after he 
had made the first man, Tomo, gave him fire and taught him 
its use. Puluga obtained fire by stacking in alternate layers 
two kinds of wood known as cor and ber, and then bidding the 
sun to come and sit on or near the pile until she ignited it, 
after which she returned to her place in the sky^ The second 
version is that Puluga came to Tomo with a spirit named Lacz 
Puya Ablola to instruct Tomo, who at his direction, prepared 
a pyre and then struck it, on which the fire was kindled and 
Puya Ablola proceeded to teach him how to cook food^. This 
legend contains an obvious contradiction. Laci Puya Ablola, as 
is shown by the name itself {Laci = the late), is the name of 
some one who is supposed to have lived and died and so 
become a spirit. Yet at the same time Tomo is supposed to 
have been the first of the Andamanese. There is the possi- 
bility, however, that this inconsistency is due not to the natives 
themselves, but to Mr Man's transcription. It is possible that 
the legend is that fire was discovered and was given to the 
ancestors (the Tomo) by a person who, being dead, is now 
Laci Puya Ablola, but who was then alive and one of the 
ancestors {Tomo) themselves. 

A third legend about fire given by Mr Man is associated by 
him with another legend about a flood that once overwhelmed 
the ancestors. According to Mr Man's version the fires were 
all extinguished by the flood, so that the few survivors were left 
without fire. "At this juncture one of their recently deceased 

1 Portman, loc. cit. 2 Man, op. cit. p. 164. ^ Ibid. 


friends appeared in their midst in the form of a bird named 
Luratut. Seeing their distress he flew up to Mow, the sky, 
where he discovered Puluga seated beside his fire ; he there- 
upon seized and attempted to carry away in his beak a burning 
log, but the heat, or weight, or both, rendered the task im- 
possible, and the blazing brand fell on Puluga, who, incensed 
with pain, hurled it at the intruder ; happily for those con- 
cerned, the missile missed its mark and fell near the very 
spot where the survivors were deploring their condition. As 
Luratut alighted in their midst at the same moment, he 
gained the full credit for having removed the chief cause of 
their distress ^" 

We may now consider a group of legends that relate how 
a great catastrophe overwhelmed the ancestors. In many of 
the versions the legend relates how the ancestors were trans- 
formed into animals. Some of the legends are connected 
with Biliku or Puluga and others are connected with the first 
discovery of fire. Beginning with the North Andaman, the 
following is, I believe, an Aka-Jeru version. "Mimi Cara once 
broke some firewood in the evening (while the cicada was 
singing). A great storm came and killed many people, who 
were turned into fishes and birds. The water rose up till it 
covered the trees. Mimi Cava and Mi-mi Kota took the fire 
and went up the hill to the cave at Ijaram. They carried the 
fire under a cooking-pot. They kept the fire alight in the cave, 
until the storm was over." 

Another Aka-Jeru legend was taken down hurriedly and the 
full details were not obtained. " The people made a noise in 
the evening when Mite (the cicada) was singing. Mite went 
to see her mother Biliku. Her mother saw her eyes and 
face. She looked bad. Her eyes were red (with weeping). 
Biliku was very angry. There was a big storm and heavy 
rain. Biliku threw her pearl shells (lightning). She went mad. 
She destroyed the whole world. Biliku went up to live in the 
sky. The earth was bare (literally, empty). One day Biliku 
dropped a Dipterocarpus seed from the sky. Out of this all the 
different kinds of tree grew, and the earth was again covered with 

^ Man, op. cit. p. 167. 


forest." There was more of the legend, which I was unable at 
the time to understand, and which I did not hear again. My 
informant added " It was on this occasion that Maia Taolu 
saved the fire." 

An Aka-Cari legend relates how the birds and beasts and 
fishes arose. '^ Maia Dik (Sir Prawn) once got angry and threw 
fire at the people (the ancestors). They all turned into birds 
and fishes. The birds flew into the jungle. The fishes jumped 
into the sea. Maia Dik'^ himself became a large prawn which 
is still called by the same name." In connection with this 
legend it must be remembered that it was Maia Dik, according 
to one legend, who first discovered the use of fire. One version 
of the story said that he made fire by striking a piece of parayo 
wood. Then he threw the burning wood about amongst the 
ancestors and they turned into birds and fishes. 

An Aka-Jeru version is very similar. "The people were all 
asleep. Maia Kqlo (Sir Sea-eagle) came and threw fire amongst 
them. They awoke in a fright and all ran in different direc- 
tions. Some ran into the sea and became fishes and turtle ; 
others ran into the jungle and became birds." 

The Aka-Kede version of the catastrophe that overtook the 
ancestors is as follows. " It was at the place called Cilpet. The 
people collected a lot of honey. They refused to give any to 
Kopo-tera-wat (a bird, not identified). The latter got very 
angry, and in the evening, when the cicadae were singing he 
made a great noise and disturbed their song. Then there arose 
a great storm, and it rained very heavily, and the sea rose 
over the land. It rose very rapidly till only the top of a big 
Dipterocarpus tree showed above the water. The people took 
refuge in the branches of this tree. Mima Mite (Lady Dove) 
managed to rescue some fire and keep it alight under a cooking 
pot. The waters at length subsided. Then the people did 
not know how to get down from the tree. Mima Carami-lebek 
made a long piece of string and with this she lowered the people 

^ Dik was one of the ancestors. He was a giant and was so big that he could go 
into the deepest water and never needed a canoe. He used to shoot dugong and 
porpoise with his bow and arrow. (The natives shoot small fish with a bow and 
arrows, but large fish and dugong and porpoise they take with harpoons.) 


safely to the ground." The carami-lebek, which was not identified, 
is a species of bird that lives, so the natives say, only at the top 
of the very tallest trees of the forest. 

An Aka-Kol version of the same legend is as follows: "At 
first there were no birds in the jungle and no fish in the sea. 
The ancestors were playing one evening and making a noise 
while the peti (cicada) was singing. Then Bilik got angry and 
sent a great cyclone. All the people were turned into birds 
and fishes and turtles and jungle beasts." 

There is an A-Pucikwar legend that, in the days of the 
ancestors, there was a big cyclone. There was a flood at 
Wota-eini and the water rose up over the trees. Some of the 
ancestors climbed up into a big Dipterocarpus tree and remained 
there till the waters had subsided. I was not able to hear any 
more detailed version of the legend. 

The following legend explaining how the ancestors were 
turned into animals was told me by an A-Pucikwar man, but 
it is probably really of Akar-Bale origin. 

" It was in the days of the ancestors. Ta Kolwqt (Sir 
Tree-lizard) went over to a big meeting at Teb-juru (in the 
Archipelago). There was a lot of dancing. Kolwot decided 
to give a big dancing party of his own. He invited everybody 
and they all came to his place. Kolwot danced a great deal. 
He began to get wild. All the people were afraid, because he 
was very strong. They caught hold of him by the arms. Kolwot 
got very angry. He threw the people from him. He threw 
them so violently that some fell in the sea and became fishes 
and turtle. Others fell on different islands and became birds and 
animals. No one could hold Kylwot. At last Berep (a species 
of crab) caught hold of his arm and would not let go. And thus 
Berep stopped him. Before this there had been no birds in the 
jungles nor any fish in the sea." 

A more complete version of this story was obtained from 
the Akar-Bale tribe. ''Da Tigbul (Sir Dugong) took all the 
people to dance at Kwaico. In Bain (Lady Civet-cat) told 
Da Kwokol (Sir Tree-lizard) that people were coming from 
Tar-mugu to dance and that Da Karanii^ would quarrel with 
^ Karami is the name of a bird that was not identified. 


him. Da Kwokol replied 'Oh! I don't care. I can fight all 
those people easily enough.' All the people came together for 
the dance and Karami quarrelled with Kwokol. The latter got 
very angry. The people were afraid. Tigbiil (Dugong) caught 
hold of Kwokol by the arm. Kwokol threw him from him with 
such force that Tigbiil fell into the sea and became a dugong. 
Then Kociirag-boa caught hold of Kwokol and Kwokol threw 
him into the jungle\ Kzvgkol threw all the people into the 
sea or into the jungle and they became birds and beasts and 
fishes. No one could hold him. Da Kwokol went away to 
Teb-juru. The people told Da Berag (Sir Crab) what had 
happened at Kwaico and how no one could hold Da Kwokol. 
Da Be7'ag went after him to Teb-juru. Da Kwokol had covered 
himself with kgiob (red paint)^. Da Berag pretended that he 
wanted some paint to put on his upper lip, saying that he was 
sick. There was no more red paint in the place, so Da Kwokql 
said 'You had better come and take some off me.' Da Berasr 
put his nose to KwqkoVs arm as though to get some paint, and 
bit deeply into Kwokgl's shoulder. Kwokql could not get loose, 
and so he died. The people at Teb-juru attacked Da Berag 
and beat him. They could not kill him, because his skin was 
too hard, so they threw him into the sea. When KwokoVs 
mother, Kegya, came and found her son dead she was very 
angry. She wept for a long time. Then she went into the 
jungle and cut the plant tqkul which belongs to Puluga. 
Puluga was angry because the tqkul was cut and sent a big 
storm which killed Kegtja and all the other people in that 

Mr Man records another version of this legend. 

" To explain the origin of certain fish, they say that one day 
before the Deluge, Mala Kqlwqt went to visit an encampment 
of the Tomola situated in the Archipelago, While engaged in 
his song the women, through inattention to his instructions, 
marred the effect of the chorus, so, to punish them, he seized 

1 Kohirag-boa is the Akar-Bak name for a huge legendary animal. 

^ When a man has killed another, either in a personal or a tribal quarrel, he has 
to observe several customs of which one is to keep himself painted with red paint for 
several weeks. 

B. A. 14 


his bow, whereupon the whole party in terror fled in all direc- 
tions ; some escaping into the sea were changed into dugongs, 
porpoises, sharks, and various other fish which till then had 
not been seen\" 

Mr Man gives still another version of the same story. " One 
day, at the commencement of the rainy season, a tomola named 
Berebi came to visit Kolwofs mother, Cana Erep, with the express 
intention of seeing her son, of whom he was extremely jealous. 
When he appeared Berebi treacherously bit him in the arm, but 
his teeth became fixed in the flesh and he was therefore unable 
to detach himself from his victim, whose friends promptly 
avenged his murder, and disposed of the corpses by throwing 
them into the sea. {Kolwot, after death, was transformed into a 
species of tree-lizard, which is still named after him, and Berebi 
became a fish called Koyo, which is armed with a row of 
poisonous barbs in its back.) The bereaved mother, in her rage, 
grief and despair, committed various acts, against which Tomo 
had been warned by Puluga, and while so doing incited others 
to follow her example by the following words : — 

e^ e, e, dia ra-gu?)iul Pab-dala, 

e, e, e, tjul kaja pij pugatken, 

e, e, e, ijul coaken toaikeft, 

e, e, t\ yul boarato aga-kolaken, 

e, e, e^ rjul gono boarjken, 

e, e, e, tjuI torj coa?'a boat/ken, 

(?, e, e, Tjig arlot pulaijoken. 

The translation of which is : — 

e, e, e (sobbing) — My grown-up handsome son, 

„ Burn the wax, 

„ Grind the seed of the cakan {Entada), 

„ Destroy the harata {Cmyota), 

„ Dig up the gono (yam), 

„ Dig up the cati (yam), 

,, Destroy everything." 

Thereupon Puluga was exceeding wroth, and sent the flood, 
that which destroyed all living things with the exception of two 
men and two women. 

Man, op. cit. p. 171. 


" This tradition is preserved in the following lines : — 

Keledoat ibaji lar cora, 
Ra-guntul ab-gorga en ig-boadi 
Ra-gutnul le liga koarna 
Ra-gumul ab-gorka 
Toala arbo eb dagan coarpo. 

The meaning of which is : — 

Bring the boat to the beach 

I will see your fine grown-up son, 

The grown-up son who threw the youths (into the sea) 

The fine grown-up son, 

My adze is rusty, I will stain my lips with his blood. 

In this, as in all their songs and chants, a good deal is left to 
the imagination, but from their explanations which have been 
given by the aborigines, the following appear to afford some light 
on the subject : — Berebi, being jealous of the renown Kolwot had 
won for himself by his numerous accomplishments and great 
strength, took advantage of meeting him and his mother one day 
on the water to ask them to let him enter their boat. On their 
complying with his request, he provided himself with a rusty 
adze and hone, remarking on the rusty condition of the former ; 
then taking Kolwot by the arm he sniffed it from the wrist to the 
shoulder as if admiring the development of the muscles ; while 
doing so he muttered the threat of staining his lips with blood, 
which he shortly after fulfilled in the manner already described ^." 

As the songs given in this legend are in the Akar-Bale 
language (Southern dialect), it is probable that the legend is 
an Akar-Bale one. It is really another version of the legend 
already given. 

Another Akar-Bale story tells how the first ancestors Duku, 
the monitor lizard, and Bain the civet-cat, managed to keep the 
fire alight when a flood overwhelmed them. " One day in the time 
of the ancestors there came a great storm, and the water rose 
over the land. The rain put out the fires. Da Duku (Sir 
Monitor Lizard) took a smouldering log and tried to climb up a 
tree with it. He could not climb with the fire in his hand. His 
wife In Bain (Lady Civet-cat) took the fire from him and took it 

^ Man, op. cit. pp. 167 — 169. 



Up to the top of a hill and there kept it alight till the rain stopped 
and the water went away. The hill is called Bain Vit-capa 
(Bain's fire) to the present day." The hill is a rather steep-sided 
hill of no great height in Havelock Island. 

Mr Portman^ connects the stor}' of the flood with the story 
of the dispersion of the ancestors over the islands. Referring to 
the names of the tribes he says, " The Andamanese state that 
these names were given to the different tribes by Maia Tomo-la 
when they were dispersed after a cataclysm. They have a 
tradition that this group of tribes was once all one tribe, and 
that the Andaman Islands were much larger than at present. 
Some great cataclysm occurred during which part of the islands 
subsided and many aborigines were drowned, the remainder 
being separated into different territories as at present by the 
orders of Maia Tomo-la, apparently the chief at that time of the 
collected tribe. (The above is of course a matter-of-fact version 
of the fanciful and impossible legends of the Andamanese.)" 

The dispersion legend in the South Andaman is connected 
with the name of the A-Pucikwar tribe. The name (of which 
the Aka-Bea equivalent is Aka-Bojig-yab) means " those who talk 
the original language," it being believed that the A-Pucikwar 
language was the one originally spoken by the ancestors. 

The only version of the dispersion legend that I heard was 
from the Aka-Kede tribe. It was to the effect that Bilika once 
seized all the ancestors and put them in a netted bag (such as 
the natives use for carrying small objects of various kinds). She 
(or he) took them out a few at a time and put them in different 
parts of the country, where their descendants have been ever 

Mr Man speaks of a legend of how the tribes came to be 
dispersed over the islands. From his account it would seem 
that there were two different dispersions, one before the Deluge, 
and a second after it. Mr Man's account is as follows. " To7no 
lived to a great age, but even before his death his offspring became 
so numerous that their home could no longer accommodate 
them. At Pulugds bidding they were furnished with all 
necessary weapons, implements, and fire, and then scattered in 
^ Notes on the Languages, etc. p. 27. 


pairs all over the country. When this exodus occurred Puluga 
provided each party with a distinct dialect. It would almost 
seem that, without straining the legend to suit facts, we might 
discern in this a faint echo of the Biblical account of the confusion 
of tongues and dispersion at Babels" 

" Consequent on the disappearance of Tomo and his wife, the 
duties of headship over the community at Wota-emi devolved on 
one of their grandchildren, named Kolwot, who was distinguished 
by being the first to spear and catch turtles. The tomola remained 
on the islands long after Tomds transformation, but after Kqlwofs 
death, according to one legend, they grew disobedient, and as 
Puluga ceased to visit them, became more and more remiss in 
their observance of the commands given at the creation. At last 
Puluga s anger burst forth, and, without any warning, he sent a 
great flood that covered the whole land, and destroyed all living. 
Four persons (two men, Lqra-lola and Poi-lola, and two women, 
Ka-lola and Rima-lola), who happened to be in a canoe when the 
catastrophe occurred, were able to effect an escape. When the 
waters subsided, they found themselves near Wota-emi, where 
they landed and discovered that every living thing on earth had 
perished; but Puluga re-created the animals, birds, etc.^" 

" When, for the second time in their history, their numbers 
had increased to so great an extent that it became impossible for 
them to remain together in one spot, an exodus, similar to the 
first, took place ; each party being furnished with fire and every 
other essential, started in a different direction, and on settling 
down adopted a new and distinct dialect. They each received a 
tribal name, and from them have sprung the various tribes still 
existing on the islands ^" 

In the Southern tribes there is a legend to account for the 
origin of night. The following version was obtained from the 
A-Pucikwar tribe. " In the early days of the world, in the time 
of the ancestors, there was no night ; it was always day. Ta 
Petie (Sir Monitor Lizard) went into the jungle to dig up yams. 
He found some yams. He also found some resin {teki), and a 
cicada {roto). He brought them to the camp of the ancestors at 

^ Man, op. cit. p. 166. ^ Ibid. 

' Man, op. cit. p. 169. 


Wota-emi. He sat down and the people came round him. Ta 
Petie took the cicada and rubbed it between his hands and 
crushed it. As he did this the cicada uttered its cry. Then the 
day went away and it was dark. It remained dark for several 
days. The ancestors came together and tried to get back the 
day. They made torches of resin, and danced and sang songs. 
First Kotare (a bird) sang a song, but he could not get back the 
daylight. Then Bumu (a beetle ?) sang, but the day would not 
come. Then Pecerol (the bulbul, Otocornpsia emeria) sang, and 
after him Koio (a bird), but both in vain. Then Koyoro (a species 
of ant) sang a song and morning came. After that, day and 
night followed one another alternately." 

A similar legend was obtained from the Akar-Bale tribe. 
''Da TeyaV- lived at Golugma Bud. He went fishing one day 
and got only one small fish of the kind called celau {Glyphidodon 
sordidusl). He turned to go home, and as he went he shot his 
arrows before him into the jungle^. Then he went after his 
arrows to find them again. As he went he spoke to the fruits of 
the jungle, asking them their names. In those days the ances- 
tors did not know the names of the fruits and trees. First he 
asked the puiam, and then the guluba, and then the cakli, but 
none of them replied to him. Then he found his first arrow. It 
was stuck fast in a big yam (gono). He took the arrow and said 
to the yam ' What is your name ? ' At first the yam did not 
answer. Teyat turned to go away. He had gone a few steps 
when the yam called him back, saying ' My name is gono.' 
Teyat replied ' Oh ! I did not know. Why did not you say so 
before ? ' He dug up the yam, which was a very big one. He 
went off to look for his second arrow. As he went he spoke to 
the stones of the jungle, asking their names, but none of them 
replied. Then he found his second arrow fixed in a large lump 
of resin {tugy. He took the arrow, and as he was going away 

1 This is the name of some creature that I did not identify, perhaps a kind of spider. 

^ An Andaman Islander will often, when walking along the shore, shoot his 
arrows before him, either aiming at some object, or trying to send each one as far as 
possible. I have never seen them do this in the jungle, for they might easily lose the 

* The Andamanese classify resin as a "stone" although they know its vegetable 


the resin called him back, saying ' Here ! my name is ttig ; you 
can take me along with you.' So Teyat took the resin. Then 
Teyat found a cicada {ritd), and he took that also. When Teyat 
got to the hut {bud), everyone came to look at the things he had 
brought. He showed them the yam. He told them its name 
and showed them how to cook it. This was the first time that 
the ancestors ate gono. Then Teyat took in his hand the cicada 
and squashed it between his palms. As he killed it the cicada 
uttered its cry and the whole world became dark. When the 
people saw that it was dark they tried to bring back the daylight. 
Teyat took some of the resin and made torches. He taught the 
people how to dance and sing. When Da Koyoro (Sir Ant) sang 
a song the day came back. After that the day and night came 

Mr Man records a different version of this story. 

" The manner in w*hich the world was illuminated at the 
beginning is not clearly to be ascertained from their legends, for 
one story states that the sun and moon were subsequently 
created at Tamo's request, as he found that, under the then 
existing circumstances, it was impossible to catch fish by night 
or to hunt by day ; while, in direct disagreement with this, 
another story tells us that night was a punishment brought upon 
mankind by certain individuals who angered Ptiluga by killing a 
caterpillar. The tale informs us that the sun, one day, burned 
so fiercely as to cause great distress. Two women named Cana 
Limi and Cana Jarayud, became exceedingly irritable, and 
while in this unhappy frame of mind they discovered a caterpillar 
igurug) and a certain plant called utura. By way of venting 
their spleen, one crushed the helpless grub, and the other 
destroyed the plant. These wanton acts so displeased Puluga 
that he determined to punish them, and to teach them to ap- 
preciate the privilege of daylight, which they had hitherto 
uninterruptedly enjoyed. He accordingly visited the earth with 
a long-continued darkness, which caused every one much incon- 
venience and distress. At last their chief, Maia Kolwot, to whom 
reference has already been made, hit upon a happy expedient of 
inducing Piduga to restore the former state of things by trying 
to assure him that they were quite unconcerned, and could enjoy 


themselves in spite of light being withheld from them. To 
accomplish this, he invented the custom of dancing and singing, 
the result of which was that Puluga, finding that they had 
frustrated his intention, granted, as a first concession alternate 
periods of day and night, and subsequently, moved by the 
difficulties often occasioned by the latter, created the moon to 
mitigate their troubles. It is in this way that they account for 
the same word being used to denote a caterpillar and nights" 

From the Akar-Bale tribe I obtained a legend about the 
origin of death. No other version of the same legend was 

" At Joyo-Vai^-boy lived In Kalwadi with her sons Yaramurud 
and Toau ^. Yaramurud went to hunt pig for his mother, but 
was unsuccessful. When he came home his mother brought him 
some pork that was in the hut. As he took his knife from the 
back of his neck to cut the meat with it, he cut himself ^ Then 
his mother knew that he was dead. She said to him ' You are 
dead now. You had better go away. We do not want you here 
any more.' She took him up and carried him into the jungle 
and buried him, returning home. Very soon Yaramurud r&\.\itnQd. 
His mother exclaimed ' Oh ! I thought you had gone.' He 
replied ' Mother, I did not die. Why did you bury me ? ' But 
she knew he was dead, so she took him and buried him again. 
He came back again. This happened three times. Then 
Kalwadi took him into the jungle to a big dumla tree {Pisonia 
excelsa\ in which there was a big hole. She kicked the tree 
with her foot and said 'You go in there.' Yaramurud went 
inside. ' Well ! Have you gone ? ' his mother asked. He 
answered ' Yes ! ' ' Tell me how the spirits {cauga) talk ' she 
asked him, and he replied ' To kit*! Then his mother knew 
that he was with the spirits, and said ' Oh ! my child, you are 

^ Man, <??*. cit. p. 172. 

^ Kalwadi is a small crab, yaramurud is the crow pheasant {Centropus atidaman- 
ensis), and toau is the hawksbill turtle. 

* Knives are generally carried slipped into a string that is tied round the neck, the 
knife, with a skewer of sharpened wood that is attached to it, hanging at the back of 
the neck, where it is easily accessible and not likely to get lost. 

< I could obtain no explanation of the phrase, or word, to kit. My informant 
only said " That is the way the spirits talk." 


finished now. You will never come back again.' After a few 
days Yaramurud came back (as a spirit) to see his brother Toau. 
Toau was busy building a hut. When Yaramurud saw him he 
killed him. Before this there had been no death. But In 
Kalwadi told the people, saying ' You see what has happened ; 
well, we shall all of us die like this, like these two have done '." 

There is a widespread legend to account for the origin of 
•creeks and islands. The following is an A-Pucikwar version. 

" At first there was only one big island with the sea all round 
it. There were no small islands and no creeks. Koyoro (a species 
of ant) made a turtle net and went fishing. He caught a very 
big fish of the kind called koro-yiti-cau in his net, and dived down 
and attached a rope to its tail. The fish got very angry and made 
furious plunges to get away, striking the land in its struggles, 
and each time knocking off a bit of the land or making a 
long split. This is the origin of the smaller islands and the 

Mr Man records the same legend, but says it was Tomo who 
caught the fish^ In an Akar-Bah \^x€\on it was Da Pecerol 
who caught the fish {koroyadi). Pecerol is the bulbul {Otocompsia 
emeria). I have the name koroyadi in my notes as being Sphy- 
raena acutipinnis, but the identification is a doubtful one. In the 
Aka-Kede tribe there is a version in which it is stated that one 
of the ancestors captured a fish called talepo. This does not 
seem to be the same species of fish as that called koro-yiti-cau or 
koroyadi in the South. In the North Andaman the legend is 
that Perjido, the son of Biliku, shot a large eel {bol) with an 
arrow, and in its endeavours to get free from the arrow the eel 
wriggled about till it made all the creeks. 

In the Southern tribes there is a legend that relates how the 
pig first got its senses. A version from the A-Pucikwar tribe is 
as follows. 

" Ta Mita (Sir Dove) went into the jungle and found a lot of 
pigs. They did not run away when he came because they had 
no eyes to see him, no ears to hear, and no nostrils with which to 
smell. They had no mouths. Mita made mouths for them 
and gave them tusks which he made of tobur wood. He made 

^ Man, op. cit. p. 165. 


eyes and ears and nostrils in their heads and taught them how 
to grunt and how to sneezed" 

Another version from the same tribe is as follows. 

" At first the pigs had neither nose nor ears nor eyes. They 
used to stand about at Wota-emi when the ancestors lived there. 
The people ate a great many of them. They were such a 
nuisance that Mita (Dove), the wife of Tomo, thought of a plan 
to get them out of the way. She bored holes in their heads, 
two for eyes, two for ears, and two for nostrils. The pigs ran off 
into the forest where they have been ever since." 

I did not obtain any version of this legend from the Northern 
tribes. The Aka-Kede have a different legend about the pigs. 

" At first there were no pigs. One of the ancestors, Minn 
Cau (Lady Civet-cat), invented a new game, and made the 
ancestors run on all fours and grunt. Those playing were turned 
into pigs, and went to live in the jungle. Mimi Cau became a 
civet-cat {cau)" 

In the North Andaman there is a legend connected with the 
pig which explains the origin of the dugong. 

" Perjido was the first man to catch a pig. He went into the 
forest and found a pig. Perjido was hungry. He caught the pig 
and took it home. The pig had no eyes nor ears nor mouth. 
Perjido did not disembowel the pig, nor did he sever the joints 
of its legs^. He made a fire and put the pig on it. The pig swelled 
up in the heat of the fire and burst. This made holes in the pig's 
head, two for ears, two for eyes, two for nostrils. The pig per- 
ceived that it was being burnt. It jumped up from the fire and 
ran away. Perjido threw a kobo {Licuala) leaf at it. The pig ran 
into the sea and became a dugong. The leaf became its flipper." 

In the Aka-Cari tribe there is a legend describing the origin 
of turtles. 

"At first there was only one big turtle. He came to the 
camp of the Aka-Cari people and called them, saying ' Bring 
your canoes and catch me.' They got into their canoes and 

1 The sneezing (the word is translated literally) is a sort of whistling noise that the 
wild pigs make when they suspect danger. 

2 The Andamanese always disembowel a pig and sever the joints of its legs before 
they place it on a fire. 


followed the turtle. They could not catch him. The turtle 
swam away and the canoes followed. When the canoes were 
far from land the big turtle came and upset the canoes. The 
men were all turned into turtles of the same kind and size as 
those that are seen now. The canoes (and the big turtle?) were 
turned into a reef" 

In the South Andaman it is supposed that the custom of 
scarifying the skin was invented by the first ancestor of the 
Andamanese, the monitor lizard. An Akar-Bale version of the 
story is as follows. 

" Duku (Monitor Lizard) lived with his wife Bain (Civet-cat). 
Duku said ' I am going to scarify myself His wife tried to 
dissuade him. He would not listen to her. He went into the 
jungle and found a piece of tolma (quartz) and scarified himself 
all over. His wife was very angry and asked him why he had 
done it. Duku replied ' I look very well like this, and you will 
see, all the other people will do the same'." 

Mr Man gives a version of the same legend. 

" Maia Duku, who appears to be identical with Tomo, is said 
to have been the first to tattoo himself. One day, while out on a 
fishing expedition, he shot an arrow ; missing its object it struck 
a hard substance which proved to be a piece of iron, the first ever 
found. With it Duku made an arrow-head and tattooed himself, 
after which he sang the ditty : — 

To7j ma lir pireija ? toy yitiken / toy yitiken / 
toy ma lir pireija ? tor] yitiken ! 

the interpretation of which is 

' What can now strike me ? 
I am tattooed, I am tattooed!' etc. (Da capo)^" 

It would seem that Mr Man, or else his informant, was not 
very clear about the details of the legend. In the South Anda- 
man scarification is never performed with an arrow-head, nor 
with any instrument of iron, but with a flake of quartz or glass. 
It is only in the North and Middle Andaman that an arrow-head 
is used for such a purpose, and even then it is only so used to 
make the big scars on the back and chest, the ordinary scarifica- 

^ Man, op. cit. p. 170. 


tion being performed with a flake of stone or glass. The legend 
is certainly a Southern one, and the song given is in the Aka-Bea 
language. The accuracy of the transcription of the legend 
therefore seems very doubtful. 

Yams and honey, being two of the most important foods of 
the Andaman Islanders, are the subject of several legends. A 
common belief about yams is that they were made, or their 
qualities were first discovered, by Biliku or Puluga. We have 
already seen that there is a special connection between Biliku 
(or Puluga) and the yams and other edible roots. There are 
also other legends, however, on the same subject. An account 
of the first discovery of the 5^am called gono is contained in the 
Akar-Bale legend of the origin of night, already given \ 

In the North Andaman the following tale is told about the 
discovery of one kind of yam. 

" Maia Dik{^'\x Prawn) discovered konnio {Dioscorea sp.). He 
was very hungry and went to look for something to eat. He 
found a very large konmo. There was only one konmo. He cooked 
it in the fire and ate as much as he could. He dashed the 
remainder on a rock, and the fragments scattered everywhere and 
grew into fresh plants. After this there were plenty of konmo 

A legend is also told in the North Andaman about the first 
discovery of another kind of yam. 

" Maia Pulimu (Sir Fly) and Maia Moico (Sir Rail) went to 
hunt pig. They killed one pig. There was nothing to tie up 
the pig (to carry it home). Maia Pulimu went to look for a 
creeper (with which to tie up the pig). He caught hold of a 
creeper and pulled it and found it was a mino {Dioscorea sp.). 
Maia Pulimu was a long time away. Maia Mqico went and 
found some creeper for himself and tied up the pig and carried 
it home. When Maia Pulimu came back he found that Maia 
Moico had gone and taken the pig. He followed him and went 
home. He showed the ancestors how to cook and eat mino" 

I believe that there is a fuller version of this legend, which I 
was unable, however, to obtain. Another of my informants told 
me the story as follows. 

1 Page 11 \. 


" Minii Moico (Lady Rail) had a son Pulimu (Fly). Pulimu 
found a mino in the forest and brought it to his mother. They 
roasted it in the fire." 

Mr Man gives a story from the South Andaman. 

" Another of their antediluvian ancestors was famous for 
propagating yams. " This was Maia Bumroag, who in shooting 
an arrow, struck the creeper belonging to the favourite variety 
called gono; his curiosity being excited he dug up the root, 
and tasted it : the result being satisfactory, he informed his 
friends of his discovery, and they all feasted upon it ; when they 
had had sufficient, he scattered the remains in different directions ; 
this apparent waste so angered his mother that, on pretence of 
shaving him, she split his head open with a flint. After his death 
it was found that the act for which he had suffered had tended to 
the spread of the plant which is now plentiful." 

In the North Andaman it is supposed that honey was 
discovered by Perjido the son of Biliku. 

^' Perjzdo was the first to eat honey. One day he went to 
.shoot fish. He saw a nyuri {Plotosus sp.). The nyuri disappeared 
amongst the roots of the mangrove trees. Perjido was looking 
for the fish. There was a honeycomb in a mangrove tree. 
Perjido saw its reflection in the water. He took some fire and 
tried to get the honey out of the waterl The water put out the 
fire. He could not get the honey. He went home and told his 
mother what he had been doing. She went with him and 
saw the honey. ' What a fool you are ' she said, ' don't you see 
that it is in the trees.' Perjido took some fire and smoked out 
the bees and took the honey. After that Perjido used to go and 
collect honey. He ate it all himself. He did not tell the others 
(the ancestors) about it. Maia Pqrubi (Sir Frog) found out that 
Perjido was getting honey and eating it. He went in to the 
forest to look for some. He found five or six combs. He ate 
them all and brought none home to his children. Beret (a 
smaller species of frog) was the child of Porubi. One day Beret 
said to his father ' Bring us some honey.' The children went 
with their father and showed him the combs in the trees. 

^ Man, op. cii. p. 170. 

^ In taking a honeycomb the natives often drive away the bees with fire or smoke. 


Porubi went up the tree, and each time he ate the honey in the 
tree and did not bring any of it down for his children. Then 
Beret saw another honeycomb in a very tall tree. He pointed 
it out to his father. Porubi went up to get it. Beret cut the 
creeper up which his father had climbed \ Porubi wrapped up the 
honeycomb to bring it down. Beret said ' Father, this creeper 
is bad. How will you come down ? ' Porubi replied ' How can 
it be bad, when I have just climbed up it? ' Beret made some 
sharp stakes of com (Areca) wood, and put them round the tree. 
Porubi jumped (or fell) from the tree on to the stakes and was 
killed. Beret took the honey and ran away home." 

In the Aka-Cari tribe there is another legend connected 
with the frog (porubi) which may conveniently be given here. 

" The ancestors were at enmity with Maia Porubi. They 
went to kill him. They shot him with their arrows, but they 
could not kill him. Maia Porubi caught hold of them all in his 
arms, and jumped into the sea. He jumped from the hill called 
Cauanara. He found a big round stone (boulder) and put the 
people under it and left them there. All the people turned into 
stone, and may be seen there now. The next night some more 
of the people went to hunt turtle near Maia Porubi's place. 
They caught a turtle and shouted"^. Maia Porubi heard them 
shouting. ' They are coming again to kill me,' he said. While 
they were catching turtle he threw a round stone at them. The 
stone sank the canoe. The canoe and the people in it were 
turned to stone." 

A story in which there is a connection between honey and a 
toad is given by Mr Man. 

" Another curious fable is told to account for a drought from 
which their early ancestors suffered : it relates that once upon a 
time, in the dry season, a woodpecker discovered a black honey- 
comb in the hollow of a tree ; while regaling himself on this 
dainty he observed a toad eyeing him wistfully from below, so he 
invited him to join in the feast ; the toad gladly accepted, where- 
upon the woodpecker lowered a creeper, giving instructions to 

1 In climbing a tall tree the Andamanese choose a stout cane or other creeper 
depending from one of the branches of the tree, and climb up it. 

2 The natives express their joy at a success in hunting by shouting. 


his guest to fasten his bucket {dakar) thereto, and then to seat 
himself in it, so that he might be drawn up. The toad compHed 
with the directions and the woodpecker proceeded to haul him 
up ; but just when he had brought him near the comb he 
mischievously let go the creeper, and his confiding and expectant 
guest experienced an unpleasant fall. The trick so exasperated 
him that he at once repaired to the streams far and near in the 
island and drained them, the result of which was that great 
distress was occasioned to all the birds, as well as to the rest of 
the animate creation. The success of his revenge so delighted 
the toad that, to show his satisfaction, and to add to the 
annoyance of his enemies, he thoughtlessly began to dance, 
whereupon all the water flowed from him, and the drought soon 
terminated ^" 

One of the incidents of the North Andaman story of the frog 
{Porubi) and his son {Beret) appears in a different story from the 
South and Middle Andaman, The following is an Aka-Kql 
version of this legend. 

" Ta Mita (Sir Dove) and Ta Koto (a species of small bird) 
went hunting together and got a great number of pigs. Ta Koio 
told Ta Mita to get some canes to tie up all the pigs. As soon 
as Ta Mita had gone to look for the cane, Ta Koio went up a 
big Dipterocarpus tree, taking half the pigs with him. He came 
down and took the rest of the pigs. He stayed up in the tree 
with the pigs. When Ta Mita came back he found that the pigs 
had disappeared. He was very angry and went home. As there 
was nothing to eat, Mita and his two children, Cada and Coda 
(two species of fish) went fishing. Koio was still up the tree. 
He was cooking the pigs up there. Mita and his children passed 
under the tree and some burning resin^ fell on them. In this way 
they discovered that Koio was in the tree. Mita planned to 
punish Koio, He cut a great number of sharp stakes of Areca 
wood and fixed them all round the tree, pointing upwards. Koio 
was asleep. Mita made the tree sink into the ground. As soon 
as it was low enough he took some water and threw it into the 

^ Man, op. cit. p. 173. 

'^ The narrator said "resin." The Dipterocarpus tree does not produce resin, but 
a sort of oil. The marks on the two fishes owe their origin to this incident. 


ear of the sleeping Kqio, who awoke in a fright and jumped from 
the tree. He was impaled on the stakes of wood and so died." 

Another version of the same tale was obtained from the 
Akar-Bale tribe. 

" Da Bumu (a species of bird) went hunting pig with Da 
Berakwe (another species of bird), and they got a large number 
of pigs. Then Berakwe said to Bumu ' We want some cane to 
tie up all these pigs. You go and get it.' When Bumu had 
gone Berakwe climbed up into a big Dipterocarpus tree, taking 
all the pigs with him, except one very small one which he left 
behind. When Bumu came back with the cane he found only 
one small pig, and he was very angry. He went home with the 
pig. Bumu's wife Yakoy (a species of fish) said ' I am very 
hungry. We will go and get some fish by night' At night 
Yakoy went out to get some fish and she passed under the tree 
where Berakwe was cooking his pigs. Some burning resin fell 
on her and burnt her. She looked up and saw Berakwe and said 
* Oh ! there you are ; you stole all my husband's pigs.' She 
went home and told Bumu, In the morning Bumu got up very 
early and cut a number of pointed stakes of Areca {cam) wood, 
and fixed them all round the tree where Berakwe was, with the 
sharp points upwards. Then Bumu made the tree sink gradually 
into the ground. Berakwe fell from the tree on to the stakes 
and so was killed. Bumu and his wife got the pigs." 

Mr Man records a version of the same story. 

" The legend regarding the origin of the evil spirits known as 
Col is as follows : — Their ancestor, Maia Col, one day stole a pig 
which had been captured by Maia Kolwot, and climbed up into 
a gurjon-tree with his prize. Now Maia Kolwot was remarkable 
for his great strength, and being enraged, determined to revenge 
himself; he thereupon planted a number of spikes all round the 
tree in which the thief had taken refuge, and then proceeded to 
force it into the ground. On finding that if he remained where 
he was, he must inevitably be buried alive, Maia Col sprang off 
the tree, and thereby met a more terrible fate, for he was impaled 
on the spikes, and perished miserably. His disembodied spirit 
did not pass to Caitan (Hades), but took up its abode on the 
invisible bridge, where, by Puluga's orders, numbers of his 


descendants were sent to join him, in the form of black birds 
with long tails^" 

In reference to this version it may be noted that the Col are 
not "spirits" if that word is used to translate the native term 
cauga or Ian. Col is the name of a species of bird, which I 
believe is the racket-tailed drongo. These birds, though according 
to Mr Man they live on the rainbow, are to be seen every day in 
the jungle, and may be heard calling coll col ! col ! 

Throughout the Great Andaman there is a belief in a huge 
animal that haunts the jungles, or that haunted them in the days 
of the ancestors. In the North Andaman this beast is called 
Jirmu. In the days of the ancestors it is supposed to have lived 
at Ulibi-tay, where it attacked and killed any men and women 
who came in its way. No detailed legend about \.h.& Jirmu was 

In the Akar-Bale language Kocurag-boa is the name of the 
same or a similar monster. In the A-Pucikwar language it is 
called Ucu. This is the name applied to two rocks of limestone 
which are situated about two or three miles south of Wota-emi, 
one being in a mangrove swamp, and the other some little way 
out in the sea. The following legend is told about these rocks. 

" In the early days of the Andamanese, Ta Petie (Sir Monitor 
Lizard), the first ancestor, went into the jungle and found a coti 
tree, up which he climbed to eat the fruit. The other people 
(who lived with him at Wota-emi) came and found him, and Ta 
Petie threw down some of the fruit to them, which they ate. The 
people began to bully Petie to make him throw down more of 
the fruit. Petie got angry and said ' If you bully me like that I 
will call the Ucu, and they will kill you all.' The people only 
laughed at him. Petie called the Ucu, calling 'Dire! dire!' 
The Ucu came, one male and one female. They caught all the 
people and ate them. Only Petie they did not eat because he 
was up in the high tree. The Ucu went off to cross the strait to 
Tol-V oko-tima. They had eaten so much that they were very 
heavy and stuck in the sand and mud at the edge of the man- 
grove swamp. When Petie came down from the tree he found 
all the people gone. He said ' Hallo ! the Ucu must have eaten 

1 Man, op. cit. p. 173. 
B. A. IS 


them all.' He went to look. He found the Ucu stuck fast at 
the edge of the mangrove swamp, so that they could not move. 
He cut open their bellies and all the people came out, for the Ucu 
had swallowed them whole. The Ucu are there to this day." 

When elephants were first introduced into the Andamans for 
the use of the Forest Department, they were named Ucu by the 
natives, and have ever since retained that name. Similarly the 
natives of the Northern tribes call them Jirmu. 

In the Akar-Bale tribe there is a legend to account for 
the origin of a rock standing in the sea at a place called 

" Ra-gumul Kwokol went fishing with his bow and arrows in 
the sea. His bow and arrows and he himself were turned into 
stone, and may be seen there to the present day." 

Kwokol is the common tree-lizard. Ra-gumul is the term 
applied to a youth or girl who has just passed through the pig- 
eating ceremony described in Chap. II. A youth is not permitted 
to handle a bow for some days after the ceremony in question. 
A version of the same legend is recorded by Mr Man. 

" The story regarding certain Toniola who failed to observe 
the rules for neophytes, states that, on the day after they broke 
their fast of reg-jiri (kidney-fat of pig), they left the encampment 
without giving notice of their intention to their friends, and the 
result was that, when they were missed and searched for, it was 
found that they had gone to the shore to fish, and had there met 
a sad fate ; the body of one was discovered adhering to a large 
boulder, and turned into stone, while the other, likewise in a 
state of petrifaction, was standing erect beside it^" 

A reef on the east side of Ritchie's Archipelago is said to 
have originated as follows. 

" The people of Kwaico went tojila to hunt turtle, taking two 
canoes. While they were away their wives made up a big fire 
in the evening at Kwaico. The hunters and their canoes were 
turned to stone, and formed the reefs that are now there." 

I believe that the explanation of this story is the belief that 
the moon is angry when a bright fire is visible at the time when 
he rises in the evening shortly after sunset-. 

^ Man, op. cit. p. i6q. - Vide supra, p. 142. 


There seems to be a legend relating to a large snake 
called or-cubi in the North Andaman, but I was not able 
to obtain a detailed version. The following was told me in 

" At Dalaniio, in the time of the ancestors, there used to be a 
big snake of the kind called or-cubi. He used to catch men and 
women when they were gathering honey, and kill them and eat 

An Akar-Bale version is a little fuller. 

" There was a man named Bica who went to look for honey 
in the jungle. He saw a big snake {wara-jobo) and from its neck 
was hanging a honeycomb. The snake was as big as a tree. 
* Why don't you make your honey in the trees .'' ' Bica said to 
the bees. He went home and called several of the men. They 
took their bows and arrows. They found the snake, and shot it 
with a great many arrows. They could not kill the snake, which 
ran away and was never seen again." 

An Akar-Bale story relates how the first murder came to 

"Z>« Ko (Sir Crow) was the first of the Andamanese. He 
lived at Kared-car-buaro with his wife In Mud (Lady Dove). 
He had a friend, Badgi-beria (Hawk). Badgi-beria had no wife 
and was jealous of Da Ko and wanted to get his wife. When Da 
Ko knew this he was very angry. He went into the jungle and 
hid himself. By and by he saw Badgi-beria and Mud coming 
along the path together. He took his bow and arrows and 
killed them." 

Another Akar-Bale story about the dove is as follows. 

" Mud and Kulal were cooking pig and got very hot. They 
went to bathe and were turned into birds." 

Mud is the bronze-winged dove, Chalcophaps indica, and 
kulal is the teal, Nettium albigulare. 

In the North Andaman there are tales about the sea-eagle 
{kolo\ One is to the effect that at first he used kobo {Licuald) 
leaves to fly with. This was before he had wings of his own. 
Another story is as follows. 

" Maia Kolo (Sir Sea-eagle) lived at Cona in Tau-ra-miku. 
He had a hut in the top of a tqroktato tree. He was unmarried. 



When the men went fishing he used to steal their wives. He 
would only take good-looking girls. He would call out to 
a girl to come and catch hold of his foot, saying ' I have 
a fish for you.' If an old or ugly woman came, he would 
say ' No ! not you ; go away.' When a young woman came 
and caught hold of his foot he flew away with her to his hut in 
the tree." 



The present chapter is devoted to an attempt to interpret 
some of the behefs and customs of the Andaman Islanders, as 
they have been described in the earlier part of this work. By 
the interpretation of a custom is meant the discovery, not of its 
origin, but of its meaning. The system of beliefs and customs 
that exists to-day in the Andamans is the result of a long 
process of evolution. To seek the origin of these customs, as 
the word origin is here used, is to seek to know the details of the 
historical process by which they have come into existence. In 
the absence of all historical records, the most that we could do 
would be to attempt to make a hypothetical reconstruction of 
the past, which, in the present state of ethnological science, would 
be of very doubtful utility^ 

It is otherwise with the meaning of these customs. Every 
custom and belief of a primitive society plays some determinate 
part in the social life of the community, just as every organ of a 
living body plays some part in the general life of the organism. 
The mass of institutions, customs and beliefs forms a single whole 
or system that determines the life of the society, and the life of a 
society is not less real, or less subject to natural laws, than the 

1 The making of such hypothetical reconstructions of the past has been regarded 
by a number of writers as the principal if not the sole task of ethnology. My own 
view is that such studies can never be of any great scientific value. Although, within 
narrow limits, particularly when the method is applied to the facts of language and 
material culture, it is possible to reach conclusions of some degree of probability, yet 
by their very nature all such hypotheses are incapable of verification. Moreover, the 
purpose of scientific studies is to discover general laws, and hypotheses as to events in 
the past of which we have and can have no certain knowledge will not provide suit- 
able material from which to draw generalisations. 


life of an organism. To continue the analogy, the study of the 
meaning of savage customs is a sort of social physiology, and is 
to be distinguished from the study of origins, or changes of 
custom in just the same way that animal physiology is distin- 
guished from the biology that deals with the origin of species, 
the causes of variation, and the general laws of evolution. 

The problems that this chapter presents are therefore not 
historical but psychological or sociological. We have to explain 
why it is that the Andamanese think and act in certain ways. 
The explanation of each single custom is provided by showing 
what is its relation to the other customs of the Andamanes^ and 
to their general system of ideas and sentiments. 

Thus the subject of the present chapter is not in any way 
affected by questions of the historical origin of the customs with 
which it deals, but is concerned only with those customs as 
they exist at the present day. Nor are we concerned with the 
comparison of the customs of the Andamanese with those of 
other savage races. Such comparisons are not only valueless for 
our purpose, but might be misleading. To draw any valid con- 
clusion from the comparison of two apparently similar customs 
in two different societies, we must be sure that they are really 
similar, and to do this we need to know the true meaning of each 
of them considered by itself. The true comparative method 
consists of the comparison, not of one isolated custom of one 
society with a similar custom of another, but of the whole system 
of institutions, customs and beliefs of one society with that of 
another. In a word, what we need to compare is not institutions 
but social systems or types. 

It is often urged that in ethnology description and interpre- 
tation should be most carefully separated. So far as this means 
that the facts observed by the ethnologist should be recorded 
free from all bias of interpretation, the necessity cannot be too 
often or too strongly urged. If, however, it is meant to imply 
that efforts at interpretation are to be excluded from works of 
descriptive ethnology, there is much to be said against such an 
opinion. In trying to interpret the institutions of a primitive 
society the field ethnologist has a great advantage over those 
who know the facts only at second hand. However exact and 


detailed the description of a primitive people may be, there re- 
mains much that cannot be put into such a description. Living, as 
he must, in daily contact with the people he is studying, the field 
ethnologist comes gradually to " understand " them, if we may 
use the term. He acquires a series of multitudinous impressions, 
each slight and often vague, that guide him in his dealings with 
them. The better the observer the more accurate will be his 
general impression of the mental peculiarities of the race. This 
general impression it is impossible to analyse, and so to record 
and convey to others. Yet it may be of the greatest service 
when it comes to interpreting the beliefs and practices of a 
primitive society. If it does not give any positive aid towards a 
correct interpretation, it at least prevents errors into which it is 
only too easy for those to fall who have not the same immediate 
knowledge of the people and their ways. Indeed it may be 
urged, with some reason, that attempts to interpret the beliefs of 
savages without any first-hand knowledge of the people whose 
beliefs are in question, are at the best unsatisfactory and open 
to many possibilities of error. 

The present position of ethnological studies may well be 
regarded as anomalous. Many of the observers engaged in 
recording the customs of primitive people are very imperfectly 
acquainted with modern theories of sociology. One result of 
this is that they often neglect to record anything concerning 
matters that are of fundamental importance for the theorists 
On the other hand those engaged in elaborating hypotheses do 
not, as a rule, observe for themselves the facts to be explained, 
but have to rely on what are in many cases imperfect documents, 
being thus unwittingly led into errors that might have been 
avoided. In this science, as in others, if progress is to be made, 
the elaboration of hypotheses and the observation and classifica- 
tion of facts must be carried on as interdependent parts of one 
process, and no advantage, but rather great disadvantage, results 
from the false division of labour whereby theorists and observers 

1 It may be worth while to mention that the interpretation of Andamanese customs 
given in this chapter was not worked out until after I had left the islands. Had it 
been otherwise I should have made careful enquiries into subjects which, as it was, 
escaped my notice. 


work independently and without systematic cooperation. The 
most urgent need of ethnology at the present time is a series of 
investigations of the kind here attempted, in which the observa- 
tion and the analysis and interpretation of the institutions of 
some one primitive people are carried on together by the ethno- 
logist working in the field. 

It is clear that such studies need to be based on a scientific 
and carefully elaborated method. Unfortunately ethnologists 
are not yet agreed as to the methods of their science. The 
question of method is therefore, at the present time, of the 
greatest importance, and for this reason I have tried, in the 
present chapter, to present the argument in such a way that the 
various steps of the analysis shall be immediately apparent, so 
that the reader may be able not only to judge the value of the 
conclusions, but also to form a clear idea of the psychological 
methods by which they are reached. 

Any attempt to explain or interpret the particular beliefs and 
customs of a savage people is necessarily based on some general 
psychological hypothesis as to the real nature of the phenomena 
to be explained. The sound rule of method is therefore to 
formulate clearly and explicitly the working hypothesis on which 
the interpretation is based. It is only in this way that its value 
can be properly tested. 

The hypothesis that seems to be most usually adopted by 
English writers on anthropology is that the beliefs of savage 
peoples are due to attempts on the part of primitive man to 
explain to himself the phenomena of life and nature. The 
student of human customs, examining his own mind, finds that 
one of the motives most constantly present in his consciousness 
is the desire to understand, to explain — in other words what we 
call scientific curiosity. He concludes that this motive is equally 
insistent in the mind of primitive man. Thus he supposes that 
primitive man, wishing to explain the phenomena of death and 
of sleep and dreams, framed a hypothesis that every man 
possesses a soul or spiritual doubled The hypothesis, once 
formulated, is supposed to have been accepted and believed 

^ Tylor, Primitive Culture, I, 387. 


because it satisfied this need of comprehension. On this view the 
belief in a soul (animism) is exactly similar in character to the 
scientific belief in atoms, let us say. The same general hypo- 
thesis appears in the explanation of totemism as having arisen 
as a theory invented by primitive man in order to explain the 
phenomena of pregnancy and childbirth^ 

On this hypothesis the beliefs are primary, arising first merely 
as beliefs and then acquiring the power to influence action and 
so giving rise to all sorts of ceremonies and customs. Thus these 
customs are only to be explained by showing that they depend 
on particular beliefs. This hypothesis, which we may call the 
intellectualist hypothesis, has never, so far as I am aware, been 
very clearly formulated or defended, but it does seem to underlie 
many of the explanations of the customs of primitive man to be 
found in works on ethnology. 

A second hypothesis explains the beliefs of primitive man as 
being due to emotions of surprise and terror^, or of awe and 
wonder^ aroused by the contemplation of the phenomena of 

Both these hypotheses may be held together, one being 
used to explain some primitive beliefs and the other to explain 
others ^ 

Doubtless there are other psychological hypotheses under- 
lying the many attempts that have been made to explain the 
customs of primitive peoples, but these two seem to be the most 
important and the most widespread. They are mentioned here, 
not in order to criticise them, but in order to contrast them with 
the hypothesis to be formulated in the present chapter I 

Stated as briefly as possible the working hypothesis here 
adopted is as follows, (i) A society depends for its existence on 
the presence in the minds of its members of a certain system of 

1 Frazer, Totemistn and Exogamy, iv. 

2 Max Muller, Physical Religion, p. 119. 

3 Marett, Threshold of Religion. 

4 McDougall, Introduction to Social Psychology, Chap. Xlll, seems to combine the 
two hypotheses. * 

5 For a criticism of the hypotheses of animism and naturism as explanations of 
primitive religion see Durkheim, Les Formes £,Umentaires de la Vie ReligieusBy 
Book I, chapters 2 and 3. 


sentiments^ by which the conduct of the individual is regulated 

.' in conformity with the needs of the society. (2) Every feature 
of the social system itself and every event or object that in any 
way affects the well-being or the cohesion of the society becomes 
an object of this system of sentiments. (3) In human society 
the sentiments in question are not innate but are developed in 
the individual by the action of the society upon him. (4) The 
■ ceremonial customs of a society are a means by which the senti- 
ments in question are given collective expression on appropriate 

/ occasions. (5) The ceremonial (i.e. collective) expression of any 
sentiment serves both to maintain it at the requisite degree of 
intensity in the mind of the individual and to transmit it from 
one generation to another. Without such expression the senti- 
ments involved could not exist. 

Using the term " social function " to denote the effects of an 
institution (custom or belief) in so far as they concern the society 
and its solidarity or cohesion, the hypothesis of this chapter may 

i be more briefly resumed in the statement that the social function 
of the ceremonial customs of the Andaman Islanders is to main- 
tain and to transmit from one generation to another the 

; emotional dispositions on which the society (as it is constituted) 

i depends for its existence. 

The present chapter contains an attempt to apply this 
hypothesis to the ceremonial customs of the Andaman Islanders. 
An attempt will be made to show that there is a correspondence 
between the customs and beliefs of the Andamanese and a 
certain system of social sentiments, and that there is also a 
correspondence between these sentiments and the manner in 
which the society is constituted. It is an attempt to discover 
necessary connections between the different characters of a 
society as they exist in the present. No attempt will be made 
to discover or imagine the historical process by which these 
customs have come into existence. 

For the clearer understanding of the argument it is necessary 
to draw attention to a few rules of method that will be observed, 
(i) In explaining any given custom it is necessary to take 

^ Sentiment, — an organised system of emotional tendencies centred about some 


into account the explanation given by the natives themselves. 
Although these explanations are not of the same kind as the 
scientific explanations that are the objects of our search yet they 
are of great importance as data. Like the civilised man of 
Western Europe the savage of the Andamans seeks to rationalise 
his behaviour; being impelled to certain actions by mental dis- 
positions of whose origin and real nature he is unaware, he seeks 
to formulate reasons for his conduct, or even if he does not so 
when left to himself he is compelled to when the enquiring 
ethnologist attacks him with questions. Such a reason as is 
produced by this process of rationalisation is rarely if ever 
identical with the psychological cause of the action that it 
justifies, yet it will nearly always help us in our search for the 
cause. At any rate the reason given as explaining an action is so 
intimately connected with the action itself that we cannot regard 
any hypothesis as to the meaning of a custom as being satis- 
factory unless it explains not only the custom but also the 
reasons that the natives give for following it. (2) The assump- 
tion is made that when the same or a similar custom is practised 
on different occasions it has the same or a similar meaning in 
all of them. For example, there are different occasions on which 
a personal name is avoided ; it is assumed that there is some- 
thing in common to all these occasions and that the meaning of 
the custom is to be discovered by ascertaining what that common 
element is. (3) It is assumed that when different customs are 
practised together on one and the same occasion there is a 
common element in the customs. This rule is the inverse of the 
last. As an example may be mentioned the different customs 
observed by mourners, which may be assumed to be all related 
to one another. The discovery of what is common to them all 
will explain the meaning of each. (4) I have avoided, as being 
misleading as well as unnecessary, any comparison of Anda- 
manese customs with similar customs of other races. Only in 
one or two instances have I broken this rule, and in those 
I believe I am justified by special considerations. 

We can conveniently begin by considering the Andamanese 
marriage ceremony, which is one of the simplest and most easily 
understood. The main feature of it is that the bride and bride- 



groom are required publicly to embrace each other. In the 
North Andaman the embrace is made gradually, by stages as it 
were, each stage being more intimate than the preceding. At 
first the two sit side by side, then their arms are placed around 
each other, and finally the bridegroom is made to sit on the 
bride's lap^ 

Everywhere in human life the embrace is employed as an 
expression of such feelings as love, affection, friendship, i.e. of 
feelings of attachment between persons. There is no need to 
enquire into the psycho-physical basis of this expression. It is 
probably intimately related to the nursing of the infant by the. 
mother, and is certainly very closely connected with the develop-7 
ment of the sex instinct. It is sufficient for our purpose to 
satisfy ourselves that the embrace in all its forms does always 
express feelings of one generic kind. Nor is it necessary for us 
to consider the peculiar form of the Andamanese embrace, in 
which one person sits down and extends his or her legs, while 
the other person sits on the lap so formed and the two wrap 
their arms round one another's necks and shoulders. 

The meaning of the marriage ceremony is readily seen. By 
marriage the man and woman are brought into a special and 
intimate relation to one another; they are, as we say, united. 
The social union is symbolised or expressed by the physical 
union of the embrace. The ceremony brings vividly to the minds 
of the young couple and also to those of the spectators the con- 
sciousness that the two are entering upon a new social relation 
of which the essential feature is the affection in which they must 
hold one another. 

The rite has-^o aspects according as we regard it from the 
standpoint of the witnesses or from that of the couple them- 
selves. The witnesses, by their presence, give their sanction to 
the union that is thus enacted before them. The man who 
conducts the ceremony is merely the active representative of 
the community ; in what he does and says he acts as a deputy 
and not as a private individual. Thus the ceremony serves to 
make it clear th^t the marriage is a matter which concerns not 
only those who are entering into it, but the whole community, 

^ See p. 73 above. 


and its occasional performance serves to keep alive this sentiment 
with regard to marriage in general. The existence of the senti- 
ment is shown in the reprobation felt and often expressed at an 
irregular marriage, in which the couple unite without a ceremony ; 
such a union showing a contemptuous or careless thrusting aside 'T^^ 
of an important social principle. 

For the witnesses, then, the ceremony serves to awaken to 
activity and to express this sentiment ; but it also serves as a 
recognition on their part of the change of status of the marrying 
pair. It makes them realise that henceforward the young couple 
must be treated no longer as children but as responsible adults, 
and it is thus the occasion of a change of sentiment towards 
those whose social position is being changed. For in the society 
of the Andamans there is a very marked division between 
married and unmarried persons in the way in which they are 
regarded by others, and in respect of their place in the com- 

The married couple are made to realise, in a different way 
and with a much greater intensity of feeling, these same two 
things ; first, that their union in marriage is a matter that 
concerns the whole community, and second, that they are 
entering a new condition, with new privileges but also with new 
duties and obligations. For them, indeed, the ceremony is a 
sort of ordeal from which they would only too gladly escape, 
and which, by the powerful emotions it evokes in them very 
vividly impresses upon them what their marriage means. 

The wedding gifts that are bestowed upon the young couple 
are an expression of the general good-will towards them. The 
giving of presents is a common method of exp^j^ssin^friendship 
in the Andamans. Thus when two friends meet after separation, 
the first thing they do after having embraced and wept together, \J 
is to give one another presents. In most instances the giving is 
reciprocal, and is therefore really an exchange. If a present be 
given as a sign of good-will the giver expects to receive a 
present of about equal value in return. The reason for this is 
obvious ; the one has expressed his good- will towards the other, 
and if the feeling is reciprocated a return present must be given 
in order to express it. So also it would be an insult to refuse a 


present offered, for to do so would be equivalent to rejecting the 
good-will it represents. At marriage the giving is one-sided, no 
return being expected, for it is an expression not of personal 
friendship on the part of the givers, but of the general social 
good-will and approval. It is for this reason that it is the duty 
of everybody who is present to make some gift to the newly- 
married pair. 

In another simple ceremony, the peace-making ceremony of 
the North Andaman^, the meaning is again easily discovered; 
the symbolism of the dance being indeed at once obvious to a 
witness, though perhaps not quite so obvious from the description 
given. The dancers are divided into two parties. The actions of 
the one party throughout are expressions of their aggressive 
feelings towards the other. This is clear enough in the shouting, 
the threatening gestures, and the way in which each member of 
the " attacking" party gives a good shaking to each member of 
the other party. On the other side what is expressed may be 
described as complete passivity; the performers stand quite still 
throughout the whole dance, taking care to show neither fear 
nor resentment at the treatment to which they have to submit. 
Thus those of the one side give collective expression to their 
collective anger, which is thereby appeased. The others, by 
passively submitting to this, humbling themselves before the just 
wrath of their enemies, expiate their wrongs. Anger appeased 
dies down ; wrongs expiated are forgiven and forgotten ; the 
enmity is at an end. 

The screen of fibre against which the passive participants in 
the ceremony stand has a peculiar symbolic meaning that will 
be explained later in the chapter. The only other elements of 
the ceremony are the weeping together, which will be dealt with 
very soon, and the exchange of weapons, which is simply a 
special form of the rite of exchanging presents as an expression 
of good-will. The special form is particularly appropriate as it 
would seem to ensure at least some months of friendship, for 
you cannot go out to fight a man with his weapons while he 
has yours. 

The purpose of the ceremony is clearly to produce a change 

1 Page 134. 


in the feelings of the two parties towards one another, feelings 
of enmity being replaced through it by feelings of friendship and 
solidarity. It depends for its effect on the fact that anger and 
similar aggressive feelings may be appeased by being freely 
expressed. Its social function is to restore the condition of 
solidarity between two local groups that has been destroyed by 
some act of offence. 

The marriage ceremony and the peace-making dance both 
afford examples of the custom which the Andamanese have of 
weeping together under certain circumstances. The principal 
occasions of this ceremonial weeping are as follows: (i) when 
two friends or relatives meet after having been for some time 
parted, they embrace each other an'H weep together; (2) at the 
peace-making ceremony the two parties of former enemies weep 
together, embracing each other ; (5) at the end of the period of 
mourning the friends of the mourners (who have not themselves 
been mourning) weep with the latter; (4) after a death the 
relatives and friends embrace the corpse and weep over it; 
(5) when the bones of a dead man or woman are recovered from 
the grave they are wept over; (6) on the occasion of a marriage 
the relatives of each weep over the bride and bridegroom ; (7) at 
various stages of the initiation ceremonies the female relatives 
of a youth or girl weep over him or her. 

First of all it is necessary to note that not in any of the 
above-mentioned instances is the weeping simply a spontaneous 
expression of feeling. It is always a rite the proper performance 
of which is demanded by custom. (As mentioned in an earlier 
chapter, the Andamanese are able to sit down and shed tears at 
will.) Nor can we explain the weeping as being an expression 
of sorrow. It is true that some of the occasions are such as to 
produce sorrowful feelings (4 and 5, for example), but there are 
others on which there would seem to be no reason for sorrow 
but rather for joy. The Andamanese do weep from sorrow and 
spontaneously. A child cries when he is scolded or hurt ; a 
widow weeps thinking of her recently dead husband. Men rarely 
weep spontaneously for any reason, though they shed tears 
abundantly when taking part in the rite. The weeping on the 
occasions enumerated is therefore not a spontaneous expression 


of individual emotion but is an example of what I have called 
ceremonial customs. In certain circumstances men and women 
are required by custom to embrace one another and weep, and 
if they neglected to do so it would be an offence condemned by 
all right-thinking persons. 

According to the postulate of method laid down at the 
beginning of the chapter we have to seek such an explanation 
of this custom as will account for all the different occasions on 
which the rite is performed, since we must assume that one and 
the same rite has the same meaning in whatever circum- 
stances it may take place. It must be noted, however, that 
there are two varieties of the rite. In the first three instances 
enumerated above the rite is reciprocal, i.e. two persons or two 
distinct groups of persons weep together and embrace each 
other, both parties to the rite being active. In the other four 
instances it is one-sided; a person or group of persons weeps 
over another person (or the relics of a person) who has only a 
passive part in the ceremony. Any explanation, to be satis- 
factory, must take account of the difference between these two 

I would explain the rite as being an expression of that feeling 
of attachment between persons which is of such importance in 
the almost domestic life of the Andaman society. In other words 
the purpose of the rite is to affirm the existence of a social bond 
between two or more persons. 

There are two elements in the ceremony, the embrace and 
the weeping. We have already seen that the embrace is an 
expression, in the Andamans as elsewhere, of the feeling of 
attachment, i.e. the feeling of which love, friendship, affection 
are varieties. Turning to the second element of the ceremony, 
we are accustomed to think of weeping as more particularly an 
expression of sorrow. We are familiar, however, with tears of 
joy, and I have myself observed tears that were the result neither 
of joy nor of sorrow but of a sudden overwhelming feeling of 
affection. I believe that we may describe weeping as being a 
means by which the mind obtains relief from a condition of 
emotional tension, and that it is because such conditions of 
tension are most common in feelings of grief and pain that 


weeping comes to be associated with painful feelings. It is 
impossible here to discuss this subject, and I am therefore com- 
pelled to assume without proof this proposition on which my 
explanation of the rite is based \ My own conclusion, based on 
careful observation, is that in this rite the weeping is an expres- 
sion of what has been called the tender emotion ^ Without 
doubt, on some of the occasions of the rite, as when weeping 
over a dead friend, the participants are suffering a painful emotion, 
but this is evidently not so on all occasions. It is true, however, 
as I shall show, that on every occasion of the rite there is a 
condition of emotional tension due to the sudden calling into 
activity of the sentiment of personal attachment 

When two friends or relatives meet after having been sepa- 
rated, the social relation between them that has been interrupted 
is about to be renewed. This social relation implies or depends 
upon the existence of a specific bond of solidarity between them. 
The weeping rite (together with the subsequent exchange of 
presents) is the affirmation of this bond. The rite, which, it must 
be remembered, is obligatory, compels the two participants to 
act as though they felt certain emotions, and thereby does, to 
some extent, produce those emotions in them. When the two 
friends meet their first feeling seems to be one of shyness mingled 
with pleasure at seeing each other again. This is according to 
the statements of the natives as well as my own observation. 
Now this shyness (the Andamanese use the same word as they 
do for " shame ") is itself a condition of emotional tension, which 
has to be relieved in some way. The embrace awakens to full 
activity that feeling of affection or friendship that has been 
dormant and which it is the business of the rite to renew. The 
weeping gives relief to the emotional tension just noted, and 
also reinforces the effect of the embrace. This it does owing to 
the fact that a strong feeling of personal attachment is always 
produced when two persons join together in sharing and simul- 

1 In a few words the psycho-physical theory here assumed is that weeping is a 
substitute for motor activity when the kinetic system of the body (motor centres, 
thyroid, suprarenals, etc.) is stimulated but no effective action in direct response to 
the stimulus is possible at the moment. When a sentiment is stimulated and action 
to which it might lead is frustrated, the resultant emotional state is usually painful, 
and hence weeping is commonly associated with painful states. 

^ McDougall, Social Psychology. 
B. A. 16 



taneously expressing one and the same emotion ^ The little 
ceremony thus serves to dispel the initial feeling of shyness and 
to reinstate the condition of intimacy and affection that existed 
before the separation. 

V_ In the peace-making ceremony the purpose of the whole rite 
is to abolish a condition of enmity and replace it by one of 
friendship. The once friendly relations between the two groups 
have been interrupted by a longer or shorter period of antagonism. 
We have seen that the effect of the dance is to dispel the 
wrath of the one group by giving it free expression. The weeping 
that follows is the renewal of the friendship. The rite is here 
exactly parallel to that on the meeting of two friends, except 
that not two individuals but two groups are concerned, and that 
owing to the number of persons involved the emotional condition 
is one of much greater intensity^ Here therefore also we see 
that the rite is an affirmation of solidarity or social union, in 
this instance between the groups, and that the rule is in its 
nature such as to make the participants feel that they are bound 
to each other by ties of friendship. j 

We now come to a more difficult example of the rite, that at 
the end of mourning. It will be shown later in the chapter that 
during the period of mourning the mourners are cut off from 
the ordinary life of the community. By reason of the ties that 
still bind them to the dead person they are placed, as it were, 
outside the society and the bonds that unite them to their group 
are temporarily loosened. At the end of the mourning period 
they re-enter the society and take up once more their place in 
the social life. Their return to the community is the occasion on 
which they and their friends weep together. In this instance also, 
therefore, the rite may be explained as having for its purpose the 
renewal of the social relations that have been interrupted. This 
explanation will seem, more convincing when we have considered 
in detail the customs of mourning. If it be accepted, then it 

^ Active sympathy, the habitual sharing of joyful and painful emotions, is of the 
utmost importance in the formation of sentiments of personal attachment. 

'^ It is a commorplace of psychology that a collective emotion, i.e. one felt and 
expressed at the same moment by a number of persons, is felt much more intensely 
than an unshared emotion of the same kind. 


may be seen that in the first three instances of the rite of 
weeping (those in which the action is reciprocal) we have con- 
ditions in which social relations that have been interrupted 
are about to be renewed, and the rite serves as a ceremony of 

Let us now consider the second variety of the rite, and first 
of all its meaning as part of the ceremony of marriage. By 
marriage the social bonds that have to that time united the bride 
and bridegroom to their respective relatives, particularly their 
female relatives such as mother, mother's sister, father's sister 
and adopted mother, are modified. The unmarried youth or girl 
is in a position of dependence upon his or her older relatives, and 
by the marriage this dependence is partly abolished. Whereas 
the principal duties of the bride were formerly those towards her 
mother and older female relatives, henceforth her chief duties in 
life will be towards her husband. The position of the bridegroom 
is similar, and it must be noted that his social relations with his 
male relatives are less affected by his marriage than those with 
his female relatives. Yet, though the ties that have bound the 
bride and bridegroom to their relatives are about to be modified 
or partially destroyed by the new ties of marriage with its new 
duties and rights they will still continue to exist in a weakened 
and changed condition. The rite of weeping is the expression of 
this. It serves to make real (by feeling), in those taking part in 
it, the presence of the social ties that are being modified. 

When the mother of the bride or bridegroom weeps at a 
marriage she feels that her son or daughter is being taken from 
her care. She has the sorrow of a partial separation and she 
consoles herself by expressing in the rite her continued feeling of > 
tenderness and affection towards him in the new condition that ^ 
he is entering upon. For her the chief result of the rite is to make j 
her feel that her child is still an object of her affection, still bound 
to her by close ties, in spite of the fact that he or she is being 
taken from her care. 

Exactly the same explanation holds with regard to the weeping ^ 
at the initiation ceremonies. By these ceremonies the youth (or 
girl) is gradually withdrawn from a condition of dependence on 
his mother and older female relatives and is made an independent 

16 — 2 


member of the community. The initiation is a long process that 
is only completed by marriage. At every stage of the lengthy 
ceremonies therefore, the social ties that unite the initiate to these 
relatives are modified or weakened, and the rite of weeping is the 
means by which the significance of the change is impressed upon 
those taking part in it. For the mother the weeping expresses 
her resignation at her necessary loss, and acts as a consolation by 
making her feel that her son is still hers, though now being with- 
drawn from her care. For the boy the rite has a different meaning. 
He realises that he is no longer merely a child, dependent upon 
his mother, but is now entering upon manhood. His former feel- 
ings towards his mother must be modified. That he is being 
separated from her is, for him, the most important aspect of the 
matter, and therefore while she weeps he must give no sign of 
tenderness in return but must sit passive and silent. So also in 
the marriage ceremony, the rite serves to impress upon the young 
man and woman that they are, by reason of the new ties that 
they are forming with one another, severing their ties with their 

When a person dies the social bonds that unite him to the 
survivors are profoundly modified. They are not in an instant 
utterly destroyed, as we shall see better when we deal with the 
funeral and mourning customs, for the friends and relatives still 
feel towards the dead person that affection in which they held 
him when alive, and this has now become a source of deep 
grief. It is this affection still binding them to him that they 
express in the rite of weeping over the corpse. Here rite and 
natural expression of emotion coincide, but it must be noted 
that the weeping is obligatory, a matter of duty. In this instance, 
then, the rite is similar to that at marriage and initiation. The 
man is by death cut off from the society to which he belonged, 
and from association with his friends, but the latter still feel 
towards him that attachment that bound them together while he 
lived, and it is this attachment that they express when they 
embrace the lifeless corpse and weep over it. 

There remains only one more instance of the rite to be con- 
sidered. When the period of mourning for a dead person is over 
and the bones are recovered the modification in the relations 


between the dead and the living, which begins at death, and is, 
as we shall see, carried out by the mourning customs and cere- 
monies, is finally accomplished. The dead person is now entirely 
cut off from the world of the living, save that his bones are to be 
treasured as relics and amulets. The weeping over the bones 
must be taken, I think, as a rite of aggregation whereby the 
bones as representative of the dead person (all that is left of him) 
are received back into the society henceforth to fill a special 
place in the social life. It really constitutes a renewal of social 
relations with the dead person, after a period during which all 
active social relations have been interrupted owing to the danger 
in all contact between the living and the dead. By the rite the 
aft'ection that was once felt towards the dead person is revived 
and is now directed to the skeletal relics of the man or woman 
that once was their object. If this explanation seem unsatis- 
factory, I would ask the reader to suspend his judgment until 
the funeral customs of the Andamans have been discussed, and 
then to return to this point. 

The proffered explanation of the rite of weeping should now 
be plain. I regard it as being the affirmation of a bond of social 
solidarity between those taking part in it, and as producing in 
them a realisation of that bond by arousing the sentiment of 
attachment. In some instances the rite therefore sei'ves to renew 
social relations when they have been interrupted, and in such 
instances the rite is reciprocal. In others it serves to show the 
continued existence of the social bond when it is being weakened 
or modified, as by marriage, initiation or death. In all instances 
we may say that the purpose of the rite is to bring about a new! 
state of the affective dispositions that regulate the conduct of 
persons to one another, either by reviving sentiments that have 
lain dormant, or producing a recognition of a change in the con- 
dition of personal relations. 

The study of these simple ceremonies has shown us several 
things of importance, (i) In every instance the ceremony is the 
expression of an affective state of mind shared by two or more 
persons. Thus the weeping rite expresses feelings of solidarity, 
the exchange of presents expresses good-will. (2) But the cere- 
monies are not spontaneous expressions of feeling ; they are all 


customary actions to which the sentiment of obligation attaches, 
which it is the duty of persons to perform on certain definite 
occasions. It is the duty of everyone in a community to give 
presents at a wedding ; it is the duty of relatives to weep together 
when they meet. (3) In every instance the ceremony is to be ex- 
plained by reference to fundamental laws regulating the affective 
life of human beings. It is not our business here to analyse these 
phenomena but only to satisfy ourselves that they are real. That 
weeping is an outlet for emotional excitement, that the free ex- 
pression of aggressive feelings causes them to die out instead of 
smouldering on, that an embrace is an expression of feelings of 
attachment between persons : these are the psychological gene- 
ralisations upon which are based the explanations given above 
of various ceremonies of the Andamanese. (4) Finally, we have 
seen that each of the ceremonies serves to renew or to modify 
in the minds of those taking part in it some one or more of the 
social sentiments. The peace-making ceremony is a method by 
which feelings of enmity are exchanged for feelings of friendship. 
The marriage rite serves to arouse in the minds of the marrying 
pair a sense of their obligations as married folk, and to bring 
about in the minds of the witnesses a change of feeling towards 
the young people such as should properly accompany their change 
of social status. The weeping and exchange of presents when 
friends come together is a means of renewing their feelings of attach- 
ment to one another. The weeping at marriage, at initiation, and 
on the occasion of a death is a reaction of defence or compensation 
when feelings of solidarity are attacked by a partial breaking of 
the social ties that bind persons to one another. 

In the ceremonial life of the Andamans some part is played by 
J dancing, and it will be convenient to consider next the meaning 
. and function of the dance. It is necessary, however, to deal very 
briefly with this subject and omit much that would have to be 
included in an exhaustive study. Thus the ordinary Andaman 
dance may be looked upon as a form of play ; it also shows us 
the beginnings of the arts of dancing, music and poetry ; and 
therefore in any study pretending to completeness it would be 
necessary to discuss the difficult problem of the relation between 
art, play and ceremonial in social life, a subject of too wide a 


scope to be handled in such an essay as this. For our present 
purpose we are concerned with the dance only as a form of social 

If an Andaman Islander is asked why he dances he gives an 
answer that amounts to saying that he does so because he enjoys - 
it. Dancing is therefore in general a means of enjoyment. It 
is frequently a rejoicing. The Andaman Islanders dance after a 
successful day of hunting ; they do not dance if their day has 
been one of disappointment. 

Pleasurable mental excitement finds its natural expression 
in bodily activity, as we see most plainly in young children 
and in some animals. And in its turn mere muscular activity 
is itself a source of pleasure. The individual shouts and jumps 
for joy; the society turns the jump into a dance, the shout into 
a song. 

The essential character of all dancing is that it is rhythmical, 
and it is fairly evident that the primary function of this rhythmi- 
cal nature of the dance is to enable a number of persons to 
join in the same actions and perform them as one body. In the 
Andamans at any rate it is clear that the spectacular dance (such 
as the performance described on page 164) is a late development 
out of the common dance. And it is probable that the history of 
the dance is everywhere the same, that it began as a common 
dance in which all present take some active part, and from this 
first form (still surviving in our ball-room dances) arose the 
spectacular dance in which one or more dancers perform before 
spectators who take no part themselves. 

In the Andamans the song is an accompaniment of the dance. 
The dancing and singing and the marking of the rhythm by 
clapping and by stamping on the sounding-board are all parts 
of the one common action in which all join and which for con- 
venience is here spoken of as the dance. It is probable that here 
again the Andamanese practice shows us the earliest stage in 
the development of the song, that song and music at first had no 
independent existence but together with dancing formed one 
activity. It is reasonable to suppose that the song first came 
into general use in human society because it provides a means 
by which a number of persons can utter the same series of sounds 


together and as with one voice, this being made possible by the 
fixed rhythm and the fixed pitch of the whole song and of each 
part of it (i.e. by melody). Once the art of song was in existence 
its further development was doubtless largely dependent upon 
the esthetic pleasure that it is able to give. But in the Anda- 
mans the esthetic pleasure that the natives get from their simple 
and monotonous songs seems to me of quite secondary import- 
ance as compared with the value of the song as a joint social 

The movements of the ordinary Great Andaman dance do 
not seem to me to be in themselves expressive, or at any rate 
they are not obviously mimetic like the movements of the dances 
of many primitive folk. Their function seems to he to bring into 
activity as many of the muscles of the body as possible. The 
bending of the body at the hips and of the legs at the knees, 
with the slightly backward poise of the head and the common 
position of the arms held in line with the shoulders with the 
elbows crooked and the thumb and first finger of each hand 
clasping those of the other, produce a condition of tension of a 
great number of the muscles of the trunk and limbs. The attitude 
is one in which all the main joints of the body are between 
complete flexion and complete extension so that there is approxi- 
mately an equal tension in the opposing groups of flexor and 
extensor muscles. Thus the whole body of the dancer is full of 
active forces balanced one against another, resulting in a con- 
dition of flexibility and alertness without strain. 

While the dance thus brings into play the whole muscular 
system of the dancer it also requires the activity of the two chief 
senses, that of sight to guide the dancer in his movements 
amongst the others and that of hearing to enable him to keep 
time with the music. Thus the dancer is in a condition in 
which all the bodily and mental activities are harmoniously 
directed to one end. 

Finally, in order to understand the function of the Anda- 
manese dance it must be noted that every adult member of the 
community takes some part in it. All the able-bodied men join 
in the dance itself; all the women join in the chorus. If anyone 
through ill-health or old age is unable to take any active part, 


he or she is at least necessarily a spectator, for the dance takes 
place in the centre of the village in the open space towards which 
the huts usually face\ 

The Andamanese dance (with its accompanying song) may 
therefore be described as an activity in which, by virtue of the ' 
effects of rhythm and melody, all the members of a community 
are able harmoniously to cooperate and act in unity ; which 
requires on the part of the dancer a continual condition of ten- 
sion free from strain ; and which produces in those taking part 
in it a high degree of pleasure. We must now proceed to examine 
very briefly the chief effects on the mental condition of those 
taking part-. 

First let us consider some of the effects of rhythm. Any 
marked rhythm exercises over those submitted to its influence a 
constraint, impelling them to yield to it and to permit it to direct 
and regulate the movements of the body and even those of the 
mind. If one does not yield to this constraining influence it 
produces a state of restlessness that may become markedly un- 
pleasant. One who yields himself utterly to it,as does the dancer 
when he joins in the dance, still continues to feel the constraint, 
but so far from being unpleasant it now produces a pleasure of 
a quite distinct quality. The first point for us to note therefore 
is that through the effect of rhythm the dance affords an experi- 
ence of a constraint or force of a peculiar kind acting upon the 
individual and inducing in him when he yields himself to it a 
pleasure of self-surrender. The peculiarity of the force in question 
is that it seems to act upon the individual both from without 
(since it is the sight of his friends dancing and the sound of the 
singing and marking time that occasions it), and also from within 
(since the impulse to yield himself to the constraining rhythm 
comes from his own organism). 

A second effect of the rhythm of the dance is due to the 
well-known fact that a series of actions performed rhythmically 

^ It will be shown later in the chapter that when individuals are excluded from 
participation in the dance it is because they are in a condition of partial exclusion 
from the common life. 

2 The psychology of dancing offers a wide field for study that has as yet, so far as 
I know, been barely touched. The following brief notes are therefore necessarily 
incomplete and somewhat unsatisfactory. 



produces very much less fatigue than actions not rhythmical 
requiring the same expenditure of muscular energy. So the 
dancer feels that in and through the dance he obtains such an 
increase of his personal energy that he is able to accomplish 
strenuous exertions with a minimum of fatigue. This effect of 
rhythm is reinforced by the excitement produced by the rapid 
movements of the dancers, the loud sounds of the song and 
clapping and sounding-board, and intensified, as all collective 
states of emotion are intensified, by reason of being collective ; 
with the result that the Andaman Islanders are able to continue 
their strenuous dancing through many hours of the nights 

There is yet a third most important effect of rhythm. Recent 
psychology shows that what are called the esthetic emotions are 
largely dependent upon motor images. We call a form beautiful 
when, through the movements of the eye in following it, we feel 
it as movement, and as movement of a particular kind which we 
can only describe at present by using such a word as ' harmonious.' 
Similarly our esthetic appreciation of music seems to be largely 
dependent on our feeling the music as movement, the sounds 
appealing not to the ear only but to stored-up unconscious 
motor memories. With regard to dancing, our pleasure in 
watching the graceful, rhythmical and harmonious movements 
of the dancer is an esthetic pleasure of similar nature to that 
obtained from the contemplation of beautiful shapes or listening 
to music. But when the individual is himself dancing it does not 
seem quite fitting to call his pleasure esthetic. Yet the dance, 
even the simple dance of the Andamans, does make, in the dancer 
himself, partly by the effect of rhythm, partly by the effect of 
the harmonious and balanced tension of the muscles, a direct 
appeal to that motor sense to which the contemplation of beauti- 
ful forms and movements makes only an indirect appeal. In other 
words the dancer actually feels within himself that harmonious 
action of balanced and directed forces which, in the contempla- 
tion of a beautiful form we feel as though it were in the object 
at which we look. Hence such dancing as that of the Andaman 

^ I have known a (i|nce to be continued for seven or eight hours, each dancer 
taking only short periods of rest ; and it must be remembered that the Andamanese 
dance is more strenuous thaii our ball-room dances. 


Islanders may be looked upon as an early step in the training of 
the esthetic sense, and to recognize all that the dance means we 
must make allowance for this fact that the mental state of the 
dancer is closely related to the mental state that we call esthetic 

Let us now consider the effects of the dance as a social or 
collective activity. First, the dance affords an opportunity for 
the individual to exhibit before others his skill and agility and 
so to gratify his personal vanity. It is very easy to observe the 
action of this harmless vanity in the dancers, and particularly in 
the man who takes the place at the sounding-board and acts as 
soloist or leader of the chorus. The dancer seeks to feel, and 
does feel, that he is the object of the approbation and admiration 
of his friends. His self-regarding sentiments are pleasantly 
stimulated, so that he becomes conscious, in a state of self-satis- 
faction and elation, of his own personal value. This stimulation 
of the self-regarding sentiment is an important factor in the total 
effect produced by the dance. 

Secondly, the dance, at the same time that it stimulates 
pleasantly the self-regarding sentiment, also affects the sentiments 
of the dancer towards his fellows. The pleasure that the dancer 
feels irradiates itself over everything around him and he is filled 
with geniality and good-will towards his companions. The 
sharing with others of an intense pleasure, or rather the sharing 
in a collective expression of pleasure, must ever incline us to 
such expansive feelings. It is certainly a readily observable fact 
that in the Andamans the dance does produce a condition of 
warm good-fellowship in those taking part in it. There is no 
need to enquire more closely into the mental mechanisms by 
which this is brought about. 

The Andaman dance, then, is, a complete activity of the 
whole community, in which every able-bodied adult takes some 
part, and is also an activity in which, so far as the dancer him- 
self is concerned, the whole personality is involved, by the inner- 
vation of all the muscles of the body, by the concentration of 
attention required, and by its action on the personal sentiments. 
In the dance the individual submits to the action upon him of 
the community ; he is constrained, by the immediate effect of 


rhythm as well as by custom, to join in, and he is required to 
conform in his own actions and movements to the needs of the 
common activity. The surrender of the individual to this con- 
straint or obligation is not felt as painful, but on the contrary as 
highly pleasurable. As the dancer loses himself in the dance, as 
he becomes absorbed in the unified community, he reaches a 
state of elation in which he feels himself filled with energy or 
force immensely beyond his ordinary state, and so finds himself 
able to perform prodigies of exertion. This state of intoxication, 
as it might almost be called, is accompanied by a pleasant stimu- 
lation of the self-regarding sentiment, so that the dancer comes 
to feel a great increase in his personal force and value. And at 
the same time, finding himself in complete and ecstatic harmony 
with all the fellow-members of his community, experiences a 
great increase in his feelings of amity and attachment towards 

In this way the dance produces a condition in which the 
unity, harmony and concord of the community are at a maximum, 
and in which they are intensely felt by every member. It is to 
produce this condition, I would maintain, that is the primary 
social function of the dance. The well-being, or indeed the 
existence, of the society depends on the unity and harmony that 
obtain in it, and the dance, by making that unity intensely felt, 
is a means of maintaining it. For the dance affords an opportunity 
for the direct action of the community upon the individual, and 
we have seen that it exercises in the individual those sentiments 
by which the social harmony is maintained. 

It was formerly the custom, I was told, always to have a 
•dance before setting out to a fight. The reason for this should 
now be clear. When a group engages in a fight with another it 
is to revenge some injury that has been done to the whole group. 
The group is to act as a group and not merely as a collection of 
individuals, and it is therefore necessary that the group should 
be conscious of its unity and solidarity. Now we have seen that 
the chief function of the dance is to arouse in the mind of every 
individual a sense of the unity of the social group of which he is 
a member, and its function before setting out to a fight is there- 
fore apparent. A secondary effect of the dance before a fight is 


to intensify the collective anger against the hostile group, and 
thereby and in other ways to produce a state of excitement and 
elation which has an important influence on the fighting quality 
of the Andaman warrior. 

An important feature of the social life of the Andamans in 
former times was the dance-meetings that were regularly held and 
at which two or more local groups met together for a few days. 
Each local group lived for the greater part of the year compara- 
tively isolated from others. What little solidarity there was 
between neighbouring groups therefore tended to become 
weakened. Social relations between two groups were for the 
most part only kept up by visits of individuals from one group 
to another, but such visits did not constitute a relation between 
group and group. The function of the dance-meetings was 
therefore to bring the two groups into contact and renew the 
social relations between them and in that way to maintain the 
solidarity between them. Those meetings, apart from the pro- 
vision of the necessary food, were entirely devoted to the 
exchange of presents and to dancing, the two or more parties of 
men and women joining together every night in a dance. We 
have already seen that the exchange of presents is a means of 
expressing solidarity or mutual good-will. It is now clear that 
the dance serves to unite the two or more groups into one body, 
and to make that unity felt by every individual, so creating for 
a few days a condition of close solidarity. The effects of the 
meeting would gradually wear out as months went by, and 
therefore it was necessary to repeat the meeting at suitable 

Thus it appears that not only the ordinary dance, but also 
the war-dance, and the dance-meetings owe their place in the life 
of the Andaman Islanders to the fact that dancing is a means 
of uniting individuals into a harmonious whole^and[j.t t he sa me XJ 
time making them actually and intensely experience_J:heir 
relation to that unity of which they are the rnembers. The 
special dances at initiation ceremonies an^ on other occasions 
will be dealt with later in the chapter,on the basis of the general 
explanation given above. 

On the occasion of a dance, particularly if it be a dance of 



some importance, such as a war-dance, or a dance of two groups 
together, the dancers decorate themselves by putting on various 
ornaments and by painting their bodies with red paint and white 
clay. The explanation of the dance cannot therefore be regarded 
as complete till we have considered the meaning of this personal 
adornment connected with it. 

If the Andaman Islander be asked why he adorns himself 
for the dance, his reply is invariably that he wishes to look well, 
to improve his personal appearance. In other words his conscious 
motive is personal vanity. 

One of the features of the dance, and a not unimportant one, 
is that it offers an opportunity for the gratification of personal 
vanity. The dancer, painted, and hung over with ornaments, 
becomes pleasantly conscious of himself, of his own skill and 
agility, and of his striking or at least satisfactory appearance, and 
so he becomes also conscious of his relation to others, of their 
admiration, actual or possible, and of the approval and good-will 
that go with admiration. In brief, the ornamented dancer is 
pleasantly conscious of his own personal value. We may there- 
fore say that the most important function of any such adorning 
of the body is to express or mark the personal value of the 
decorated individual. 

This explanation only applies to certain bodily ornaments 
and to certain ways of painting the body. It applies to the 
painting of white clay, with or without red paint, that is adopted 
at dances and on other ceremonial occasions. It applies to such 
personal ornaments as those made of netting and Dentalium 
shell which constitute what may be called the ceremonial costume 
of the Andamanese. It is of these that the natives say that they 
use them in order to look well. 

The occasions on which such personal decoration is used are 
strictly defined by custom. In other words the society dictates 
to the individual when and how he shall be permitted to express 
his own personal value. It is obvious that personal vanity is of 
great importance in directing the conduct of the individual in his 
dealings with his fellows, and much more amongst a primitive 
people such as the Andamanese than amongst ourselves, and it is 
therefore necessary that the society should have some means of 


controlling the sentiment and directing it towards social ends. 
We have seen that the dance is the expression of the unity and 
harmony of the society, and by permitting at the dance the free 
expression of personal vanity the society ensures that the indi- 
vidual shall learn to feel, even if only subconsciously, that his 
personal value depends upon the harmony between himself and 
his fellows. 

The bride and bridegroom are painted with white clay, and 
wear ornaments of Dentalium shell on the day following their 
marriage. We have seen that marriage involves a change of 
social status, and we may say that it gives an increased social 
value to the married pair, the social position of a married man 
or woman being of greater importance and dignity than that of 
a bachelor or spinster. They are, after marriage, the objects of 
higher regard on the part of their fellows than they were before. 
It is therefore appropriate that the personal value of the bride 
and bridegroom should be expressed so that both they them- 
selves and their fellows should have their attention drawn to it, 
and this is clearly the function of the painting and ornaments. 

After the completion of any of the more important of the 
initiation ceremonies, such as the eating of turtle, the initiate is 
painted with white clay and red paint and wears ornaments of 
Dentalium shell. This is exactly parallel to the painting of the 
bride and bridegroom. The initiate, by reason of the ceremony 
he has been through, has acquired new dignity and import- 
ance, and by having fulfilled the requirements of custom has 
deserved the approval of his fellows. The decoration of his body 
after the ceremony is thus the expression of his increased social 

A corpse, before burial, is decorated in the same manner as 
the body of a dancer. This, we may take it, is the means by 
which the surviving relatives and friends express their regard for 
the dead, i.e. their sense of his value. We need not suppose that 
they believe the dead man to be conscious of what they are 
doing. It is to satisfy themselves that they decorate the corpse, 
not to satisfy the spirit. When a man is painted he feels that he 
has the regard and good-will of his fellows, and those who see 
him, at any rate in the instance of a bridegroom or initiate, 


realise that he has deserved their regard. So, to express their 
regard for the dead man they paint the inanimate body. Hence 
it is that the greater the esteem in which the dead man or 
woman is held, the greater is the care bestowed on the last 

We may conclude therefore that the painting of the body 
with white clay and the wearing of ornaments of Dentaliutn 
shell is a rite or ceremony by which the value of the individual 
to the society is expressed on appropriate occasions. We shall 
find confirmation of this later in the chapter. 

Before passing on to consider the meaning of other methods 
of decorating the body there is one matter that is worthy of 
mention. It is often assumed or stated that both personal orna- 
ment and dancing, amongst uncivilised peoples, are connected 
with sexual emotion. It is, of course, extremely difficult to dis- 
prove a statement of this sort. So far as the Andamanese are 
concerned I was unable to find any trace whatever of a definitely 
sexual element in either their dances or their personal adorn- 
ment. It may be recalled that both men and women wear 
exactly the same ornaments on ceremonial occasions, and this 
is to some extent evidence that such have no sexual value. It 
is possible that some observers might see in the dance of the 
women (which is only performed on rare occasions) a suggestion 
of something of a sexual nature. I was unable to find that the 
natives themselves consider that there is anything suggestive of 
sex in either the dance of the men or that of the women. If it 
were true that the most important feature of the dance was that 
it appealed in some way to sexual feelings it is difficult to see 
how we are to explain the different occasions on which dancing 
takes place, as before a fight, at the end of mourning, etc., 
whereas these are adequately accounted for by the hypothesis 
that the dance is a method of expressing the unity and harmony 
of the society. Similarly the explanation of personal ornament 
as being connected with sexual feeling would fail to account 
for the occasions on which it is regarded as obligatory. There 
is therefore, I believe, no special connection between the dancing 
and personal ornament of the Andamanese and sexual feel- 
ing. It would still be possible to hold that there is a general 


connection of great importance between the affective dispositions 
underlying these and other customs and the complex affective 
disposition that we call the sex instinct. The nature of that 
connection, important as it is, lies outside the scope of this 

I remarked above that the explanation which I have given of 
the meaning of personal ornament does not apply to all the 
objects that the Andaman Islanders wear on their body, but 
only to certain of them. If an Andaman Islander be asked why 
he paints himself with white clay, or why he wears a belt or 
necklace of Dentalium shell he replies that he does so in order 
to look well ; but if he be asked why he wears a string of human 
bones round his head or neck or waist, he gives quite a different 
answer, to the effect that he does so in order to protect himself 
from dangers of a special kind. According to circumstances he 
will say either that he is wearing the bones to cure himself of 
illness, or else that he wears them as a protection against spirits. 
Thus while some things are worn on the body in order to im- 
prove the personal appearance, and consequently, as explained 
above, to give the individual a sense of his own value, others are 
worn because they are believed to have a protective power, and 
thereby arouse in the person a sense of security. Exactly the 
some sort of protective power is attributed to things that cannot 
be worn on the body, such as fire, and it will therefore be con- 
venient to consider together all the things that afford this kind 
of protection, whether they can be worn on the body or not. 

The interpretation here offered is that the customs connected 
with this belief in the protective power of objects of various 
kinds are means by which is expressed and thereby maintained 
at the necessary degree of energy a very important social senti- 
ment, which, for lack of a better term, I shall call the sentiment 
of dependence. In such a primitive society as that of the 
Andamans one of the most powerful means of maintaining the 
cohesion of the society and of enforcing that conformity to 
custom and tradition without which social life is impossible, is 
the recognition by the individual that for his security and well- 
being he depends entirely upon the society. Now for the Anda- 
man Islander the society is not sufficiently concrete and particular 

B. A. 17 


to act as the object of such a sentiment, and he therefore feels 
his dependence upon the society not directly but in a number of 
indirect ways. The particular way with which we are now 
concerned is that the individual experiences this feeling of depend- 
ence towards every important possession of the society, towards 
every object which for the society has constant and important uses. 

The most prominent example of such an object is fire^It 
may be said to be the one object on which the society most of 
all depends for its well-being. It provides warmth on cold 
nights ; it is the means whereby they prepare their food, for they 
eat nothing raw save a few fruits ; it is a possession that has to 
be constantly guarded, for they have no means of producing it, 
and must therefore take care to keep it always alight ; it is the 
first thing they think of carrying with them when they go on a 
journey by land or sea ; it is the centre around which the social 
life moves, the family hearth being the centre of the family life, 
while the communal cooking place is the centre round which the 
men often gather after the day's hunting is over. To the mind 
of the Andaman Islander, therefore, the social life of which his 
own life is a fragment, the social well-being which is the source of 
his own happiness, depend upon the possession of fire, without 
which the society could not exist. In this way it comes about that 
his dependence on the society appears in his consciousness as a 
sense of dependence upon fire and a belief that it possesses power 
to protect him from dangers of all kinds. 

The belief in the protective power of fire is very strong. A 
man would never move even a few yards out of camp at night 
without a fire-stick. More than any other object fire is believed 
to keep away the spirits that cause disease and death. This 
belief, it is here maintained, is one of the ways in which the 
individual is made to feel his dependence upon the society. 

Now this hypothesis is capable of being very strictly tested 
by the facts, for if it is true we must expect to find that the same 
protective power is attributed to every object on which the social 
life depends. An examination of the Andamanese beliefs shows 
that this is so, and thereby confirms the hypothesis. 

In their daily life the Andamanese depend on the instrinsic 
qualities of the materials they use for their bows and arrows and 


harpoons and other hunting implements, and it can be shown 
that they do attribute to these implements and to the materials 
from which they are made powers of protection against evil. 
Moreover it is even possible to apply a quantitative test and 
show that the more important the place a thing occupies in the 
social life the greater is the degree of protective power attributed 
to it. Finally I shall be able to show that as different materials 
are used for special purposes so they are supposed to have certain 
special powers of protection against certain sorts of danger. Thus 
the hypothesis I have stated is capable of being as nearly demon- 
strated as is possible in such psychological enquiries as the one 
we are engaged in. 

A man carrying his bow and arrows is supposed to be less 
likely to fall a victim to the spirits than one who has no weapons 
with him. One way of stopping a violent storm is to go into the 
sea (storms being supposed to be due to the spirits of the sea) 
and swish the water about with arrows. The natives sometimes 
wear a necklace formed of short lengths of the bamboo shaft of 
a fish-arrow. All the examples of such necklaces that I met with 
had been made from an old arrow. I asked a native to make 
one for me, and although he could readily have made one from 
bamboo that had never served as an arrow he did not do so, but 
used the shaft of one of his arrows. Such a necklace may there- 
fore be described as an arrow in such a form that it can be worn 
round the neck and thus carried continually without trouble. 
The protective power of the bow is at first sight not quite so 
evident, but the material used for the string is regarded as 
possessing protective power, and to this I shall return shortly. 

The best demonstration of the truth of the explanation 
offered is to be found by considering the different vegetable fibres 
of which use is made. The most important of these are the 
Anadendron paniculatuni (used for bow-strings and for fine 
string), the Hibiscus tiliaceus (used for rope) and the Gnetum 
edule(vL5&d for string, and inferior to the Anadendron). All these 
fibres are believed to possess power to keep away dangers, but 
there is a sort of specialisation in their use. 

The fibre of the Hibiscus is used mainly in the hunting of 
turtle and big fish. Consequently the tree itself from which the 



fibre is obtained is believed to possess the power of warding- 
off all dangers connected with turtle and the sea. There is a 
custom that turtle flesh may only be cooked with wood of 
the Hibiscus, otherwise it will be uneatable. In the turtle-eating 
ceremony the initiate who, as we shall see later, is in a condition 
of danger by reason of having eaten turtle for the first time after 
a period of abstention, is seated on Hibiscus leaves and holds a 
bundle of the same leaves before him. At the same ceremony 
the leaves of this tree are used in the dance, and the initiate is 
given a skewer made from its wood with which to feed himself. 
If for any reason the leaves of the Hibiscus are not obtainable 
when the ceremony is performed those of the Myristica longi- 
folia are used instead. Now this is the tree from which the 
natives always make their canoe paddles, which, like ropes of 
Hibiscus fibre, are used in hunting turtle. This specialisation is 
therefore easy to understand ; the natives habitually make use 
of the Hibiscus and the Myristica in turtle-hunting; they use the 
intrinsic qualities of these trees in their actual struggles with 
turtle and large fish, and by means of these qualities they are 
able to succeed in overcoming their prey ; they therefore come 
to believe that these trees possess special powers which not only 
enable them to conquer the turtle itself but also are able to pro- 
tect them from the evil influences that they believe (for reasons 
to be explained later) result from the eating of its flesh. 

This explanation is readily verified by considering an exactly 
parallel instance. In the pig-eating ceremony at initiation the 
leaves of the Hibiscus or the Myristica are not used, and are 
regarded as valueless. Paddles and ropes are of no use in hunting 
pigs. The leaves that are used in this ceremony are those of the 
Tetranthera lancoefolia. It is from this tree that are obtained 
the shafts of pig-arrows. Hence the relation of the tree to the 
pig is exactly parallel to that of the Hibiscus to turtle. It is by 
making use of the qualities of the wood that they are able to 
destroy the pig and so they believe that its leaves will enable them 
to destroy the dangers that result from the eating of the animal. 

The leaves of the Tetranthera are also used, however, in the 
ceremony at a girl's first menstruation, and I cannot pass over 
this without an explanation. It is to be found in the fact that 


pig-arrows are used in fighting, so that the tree comes to have a 
special relation to the shedding of blood. Plumes of shredded 
Tetranthera wood (made from an old arrow-shaft) must be worn 
by a homicide during the period of "purification" as a protection 
against the dangers that are believed to threaten him because 
he has shed blood. The same plumes were formerly always 
carried in a dance preceding a fight, and at such times the 
natives used to rub their bows with the shredded wood in order 
to ensure success in battle. Thus it is clear that there is a 
special connection between this tree and the shedding of blood, 
due to the fact that pig-arrows, of which the shafts are made 
from it, are used in fighting as well as for killing pigs and other 
animals. It is probable that this is the explanation of the use of 
the leaves during the ceremony at a girl's first menstruation. 

These examples afford a crucial test of the hypothesis here 
maintained. Not only is the protective power of these substances i 
explicable by the fact that they are things on which the society 
depends in its daily life, but the special uses of each of them as 
amulets are only explicable when we consider the different uses 
to which they are put as materials. 

The fibre of the Anadendron paniculatum is used for making 
thread, bow-strings, the cords of pig-arrows, and for binding the 
heads and barbs of harpoons and arrows. It has therefore no 
special relation to either pig or turtle. There is a belief, how- 
ever, that the plant does possess special protective powers that 
make it efficacious against certain dangers coming from the sea. 
A piece of the plant tied round the neck or worn in the belt 
of a swimmer is believed to protect him from sharks and other 
dangerous fish, A piece of it crushed and placed in the sea is 
said to have stopped a violent storm on one occasion. Thus the 
Anadendron seems to possess a special power which makes it a 
source of protection against dangers from the sea. The same is 
true of the Gnetum edule, though, as this fibre is less valued than 
that of the Anadendron, it is not supposed to be so powerful in 
its effects. In regard to the specialisation in the use of these two 
plants as amulets it seems likely that it is due to a notion of 
opposition between the things of the forest and the things of the 
sea. The Andamanese live in a double environment; the jungle- 


dwellers live entirely in the forest and have dealings with forest 
things; they develop knowledge and powers that make them 
better woodsmen than the coast-dwellers. The latter live by the 
sea and are chiefly occupied with things of the sea, being 
skilled in the occupations of fishing and canoeing. There is thus 
a contrast or opposition between the life of the forest and the 
life of the shore that runs through all the social life, and I believe 
that it is this opposition which explains the belief that the 
Anadendron and the Gttetum, which are essentially forest things, 
are possessed of a quality that makes them contrary or opposed 
to all things of the sea. 

Personal ornaments are made from the fibres that have been 
mentioned {Hibiscus, Anadendron, G?ietmn), and we are justified, 
I think, in regarding such ornaments as being to some extent 
amulets. I purchased from a man in the Little Andaman a 
charm that was hanging round his neck, which he seemed to 
value highly. I imagined that it might contain a human bone, 
but when I had unwound the ornamental thread with which it 
was bound and opened out the covering of bark I found inside 
the parcel only a carefully folded length of rope made from 
Hibiscus fibre. 

There is one fibre from which the natives of the Great Anda- 
man make themselves ornaments, which they do not regularly 
use in any other way, namely that of the Fictis laccifera. We 
may perhaps regard this as a genuine and demonstrable example 
of a survival in custom. The natives of the Little Andaman, 
who, until their recent contact with those of the Great Andaman, 
did not know the use of the Anadendron, use the fibre of the 
Ficus for their bow-strings. We are justified in assuming, I be- 
lieve, that the natives of the Great Andaman made a similar use 
of the same fibre before they had learnt to use the Anadendron. 
In those days much of the power that is now attributed to the 
Anadendron, because of its service as the material for bow- 
strings, must then have been attributed to the Ficus. When the 
substitution of the superior Anadendron fibre came about, the 
belief in the efficacy of the Ficus did not disappear, although the 
ground of the belief (if we may call it so) had ceased to exist. 
If this be so, then the present use of the Ficus fibre as an amulet 


is an example of survival. It may be noted that the qualities of 
the Ficus are supposed to be similar to those of the Anadendron. 
Thus while one medicine-man stopped a storm with Anadendron, 
another did the same thing on another occasion with Ficus. 

The above examples are sufficient to justify the generalisa- 
tion that the Andamanese attribute protective power to all those 
substances on the strength and other qualities of which they 
rely in order to obtain their food or overcome their enemies. 
There are one or two other positive instances that have not been 
mentioned. Bees'-wax, which is used for waxing thread and 
bow-strings, is believed to have power to keep spirits away and 
to cure sickness. Cane, which is used by the natives for many 
different purposes, seems also to have its use as an amulet, for 
belts and other personal ornaments are made of pieces of cane 
attached to a length of rope. 

Negative instances are more difficult to discover. When I was 
in the Andamans I had not formulated the explanation that is 
offered here, and I therefore did not make any search for negative 
instances that might have afforded a means of testing the value 
of the hypothesis. I have no satisfactory evidence that pro- 
tective power is attributed to iron, or to the shells that were 
formerly used, as iron now is, for the heads and barbs of arrows, 
but it is quite possible that I may have overlooked evidence that 
was really there. I do not think that any particular protective 
properties are attributed to such things as the materials from 
which baskets are made and the clay that is used for pottery. 
These things, however, may be regarded as luxuries rather than 
necessities; they are not of the same immediate service to the 
society in its fundamental activity (that of providing food) as 
are weapons and the materials used in them. 

There are still two important kinds of amulets that remain 
to be considered. First, protective power is attributed to the 
bones of animals, which are made into personal ornaments; 
these cannot be dealt with until we have considered some of the 
beliefs relating to food. Secondly, a very high degree of pro- 
tective power is attributed to human bones, but the discussion 
of this belief must wait till we have discovered the meaning of 
the funeral customs of the Andamanese. 


To conclude the present argument, it would seem that the 
function of the belief in the protective power of such things 
as fire and the materials from which weapons are made is to 
maintain in the mind of the individual the feeling of his de- 
pendence upon the society ; but viewed from another aspect the 
beliefs in question may be regarded as expressing the social 
value of the things to which they relate. This term — social 
value — will be used repeatedly in the later part of this chapter, 
and it is therefore necessary to give an exact definition. By the 
social value of anything I mean the way in which that thing 
affects or is capable of affecting the social life. Value may be 
either positive or negative, positive value being possessed by any 
thing that contributes to the well-being of the society, negative 
value by anything that can adversely affect that well-being. 

The social value of a thing (such as fire) is a matter of 
immediate experience to every member of the society, but the 
individual does not of necessity consciously and directly realise 
that value. He is made to realise it indirectly through the belief, 
impressed upon him by tradition, that the thing in question 
affords protection against danger. A belief or sentiment which 
finds regular outlet in action is a very different thing from a 
belief which rarely or never influences conduct. Thus, though 
the Andaman Islander might have a vague realisation of the 
value of Hibiscus, for example, that would be something very 
different from the result on the mind of the individual of the 
regular use of the leaves of that tree in initiation ceremonies as 
a protection against unseen dangers. So that the protective uses 
of such things are really rites or ceremonies by means of which 
the individual is made to realise (i) his own dependence on the 
society and its possessions, and (2) the social value of the things 
in question. 

I have had to postpone to the later parts of the chapter the 
consideration of some of the objects possessing protective power, 
but I venture to state here three propositions some part of the 
evidence for which has already been examined, and which will 
be sufificiently demonstrated, I hope, before the end of the 
chapter. They are as follows : (i) any object that contributes to 
the well-being of the society is believed to afford protection 


against evil ; (2) the degree of protective power it is believed to 
possess depends on the importance of the services it actually 
renders to the society; (3) the kind of special protection it is 
supposed to afford is often related to the kind of special service 
that it does actually render. 

We were led to the consideration of the protective power of 
objects through an attempt to understand the meaning of the 
methods of ornamenting the body in the Andamans. We have 
seen that some ornaments are worn in order to express the 
personal value of the individual, while others are worn for the 
sake of the protection they are believed to afford. We have also 
seen that one method of painting the body (with white clay) 
is a means of expressing the personal value of the painted in- 
dividual. We will next consider the use of the clay called odu.^^ 
This clay is painted on the body of a mourner and is the out- 
ward sign of mourning ; it is used at certain stages of the initia- 
tion ceremonies; it is also regularly used for painting the body 
with the designs known as era-puli. According to the rule of 
method laid down at the beginning of the chapter we must seek 
some common explanation of these different uses of the same 

We may consider, first of all, the patterns {era-puli) that are 
made with this clay on the body and face after eating certain 
foods such as pork and turtle. 

Mr Man gives two explanations of the use of these paintings 
of clay. Dilring the hot season, he says, the natives " endeavour 
to lessen the discomfort caused by the heat by smearing their 
bodies with a white-wash of common white clay and water," 
He adds : " it has long been erroneously believed that they have 
recourse to this expedient in order to allay the inconvenience 
which they would otherwise suffer from the bites of mosquitoes 
and other jungle pests ; but the true reason for the practice is, 
I am well assured, that which I have given above ^" In another 
place he says : " After eating pork or turtle they are in the habit 
of smearing og over their bodies with their fingers, in the belief 
that it affects their breath, and that evil spirits will be unable to 
detect, and therefore will not be attracted to, them by the 

^ Man, op. cit. p. 76. 


savoury smell of the food of which they have partaken. Again, 
when heated by travelling or by hunting or dancing, they have 
recourse to the same wash, but in these cases it is applied thinly^" 

There are here two explanations of fundamentally different 
character. First the Andamanese practice of painting their 
bodies with clay is explained as having a purely utilitarian 
purpose, being intended to cool them when the)'- are heated. In 
the second statement the explanation given is that the custom is 
intended to protect them from danger. 

My own observations do not altogether agree with the state- 
ments of Mr Man. I found that the natives painted themselves 
just as much in the cold season as in the hot season. The 
principal, if not the sole, occasion on which the clay is used is 
after or immediately before a meal, and therefore generally in 
the late afternoon or evening when the heat of the day is past. 
I do not feel so satisfied as Mr Man appears to be, that the clay 
really has the effect of keeping a person cool, particularly when 
it is remembered that the painting may consist of a few lines 
each as broad as a finger. Moreover, Mr Man's explanation does 
not afford any reason for the fact that the clay is always applied 
in some sort of pattern. If it were merely to keep himself cool, 
we should expect to see a man cover himself all over with a 
plain coating evenly spread over the body. Such an even coating 
is never used, in the Great Andaman tribes, except by persons 
mourning for the dead, and is the essential mark of a mourner. 

It is easy to explain how Mr Man has fallen into an error in 
this matter. On many occasions, when I questioned the natives 
as to their reason for painting themselves with clay I received 
the answer, "When we have eaten pork or turtle or dugong, we 
become ot-kiinil and so we take clay and paint ourselves." Now 
the word ot-kimil in the Aka-Jeru language is the word that the 
natives use to express what we mean by the word " hot." But 
while "hot" may always be translated by ot-khnil or er-kimil, 
the latter word cannot always be adequately rendered in English 
by the word "hot." Mr Man seems to have supposed that when 
an Andaman Islander says "hot" he means by the word only 
what we mean, whereas he really means a great deal more. 

1 Man, op. cii. p. 333. 


Let us examine briefly the word in question. In the languages 
of the North Andaman the stem is -kimil. With the prefix ot- 
or er- it is used to mean "hot" as in T' ot-kimil-bom, "I am hot," 
or Ino ot-kimil hi ox I no er-kimil bi, "The water is hot." Used 
by itself the stem kimil is the name of the latter part of the 
rainy season, when the weather is not hot but cool. A youth or 
girl who is passing through the initiation ceremonies is said to 
be aka-kimil, and is addressed or spoken of as Kimil, instead of 
by his or her proper name. The turtle-eating ceremony is called 
cokbi-kimil, or cokbi-jo or kimil-jo, cokbi meaning " turtle " and jo 
meaning " eating." The word " hot " is used by the natives in 
several unusual ways when they are talking their own language 
or Hindustani. Thus a stormy or rough sea is said to be "hot," 
and one native in describing to me (in Hindustani) the cessation 
of a cyclone said " the sea became cold." A person who is ill is 
said to be hot, and getting well is expressed by the phrase 
" getting cool." 

In the Aka-Bea language the word "hot" is translated by 
Mr Portman by the stem uya. The stem kimil appears in the 
form gumul in only some of the uses it has in the Northern 
languages. Gumul is the name of the latter part of the rainy 
season. A youth passing through the initiation ceremonies is 
said to be aka-gumul and is addressed or spoken of as Guma. 
The turtle-eating ceremony is called gumul-le-ke, le-ke meaning 
"eating." The word thus means " the gumti I eating" and is the 
literal equivalent of the kimil-jo of the North. 

The uses of the word kimil may be summarised as follows : 

(i) to mean "hot" in the sense of the English word; 

(2) in connection with illness; 

(3) in speaking of stormy weather; 

(4) as the name of the latter part of the rainy season ; 

(5) to denote the condition of a youth or girl who is passing 
through or has recently passed through the initiation ceremonies, 
and to denote the ceremonies themselves ; 

(6) to denote a condition in a person consequent on eating 
certain foods, and perhaps sometimes due to other causes, to 
remedy or obviate which the natives make use of clay painted 
in patterns on their bodies. 


It is probable, then, that when a native says that after eating 
food he is ot-kimil and therefore paints himself with clay he 
does not mean simply that he is hot. This will be still more 
evident when we consider the second explanation of the custom 
that is given by the natives. Many of those whom I questioned 
stated that after eating dugong, pork, turtle, etc., the body emits 
an odour, that this odour may attract the spirits of the jungle or 
the sea, and that to obviate this they paint themselves with clay. 
This agrees exactly with what Mr Man says in the second 
passage quoted above. It is confirmed by other customs. I was 
told that a man who has eaten dugong will not leave the camp 
until some time after the dugong meat is all finished, for fear 
that the spirits may smell him and do him harm. It is to be 
noted in passing that painting the body with clay does not by 
any means remove the odour that does actually characterise a 
native after he has been eating fat meat of any kind. We must 
be careful, in this instance also, not to assume that an Andaman 
Islander means by " smell " exactly what we mean by it and 
nothing more. It will be shown later in the chapter that the 
Andamanese identify the smell of an object with its active 
magical principle. One example may be given here to show 
this. The origin of rheumatism in the legs is explained by the 
natives as being the result of the common practice of preparing 
the fibre of the Anadendron paniculatuni by scraping it on the 
thigh. During this process, they say, the " smell " of the plant 
enters the thigh and is the cause of rheumatic or sciatic pains. 

The natives give yet a third statement of their reasons for 
using clay. On many occasions I asked them what would happen 
if they ate pork or turtle and did not paint themselves. In every 
case I received the reply that any man who did such a thing 
would almost certainly be ill. 

When a number of persons give three different reasons for 
one and the same action, and are equally sincere throughout, it 
is to be presumed that the three different statements are so many 
different ways of saying one and the same thing. We may there- 
fore conclude that the Andaman Islanders believe that there is a 
peculiar power in foods (or in some foods) which makes it danger- 
ous to eat them. This danger may be expressed by saying that 


the person who has eaten food will, unless he takes certain pre- 
cautions, be liable to be ill. Now sickness is believed to be caused 
by the spirits of the jungle and the sea, and therefore an alter- 
native or equivalent statement of the same belief is that after a 
person has eaten food he is in danger from the spirits. We may 
therefore conclude that the word ot-kimil, when it is used to de- 
scribe the condition of a person who has eaten food, denotes 
simply this condition of danger, and nothing more. For this we 
shall find ample confirmation later on. Subject to such later con- 
firmation I will here state what has been maintained, which is 
(i) that the era-puli patterns are to be explained as being pro- 
tective, (2) that the eating of food is regarded as dangerous, and 
(3) that this danger is associated in the minds of the natives 
with sickness and with the spirits. It will be convenient to leave 
the first of these three propositions for later discussion and take 
up the second, seeking to find the meaning of this belief in the 
dangerous properties of food. 

Not all foods are equally dangerous. I was able to establish 
roughly a sort of scale. The most dangerous foods are dugong; 
the fish called komar; some of the snakes; the internal fat such 
as the kidney-fat or the intestinal fat of pig, turtle, monitor lizard 
and Paradoxurus] the liver of sharks, sting-rays and Plotosus; and 
honey. Next in order come the flesh of pigs, turtle, monitor 
lizard and Paradoxiirus and of the fishes mentioned above ; also 
the eggs of turtle. To these should perhaps be added the edible 
grubs and some vegetable foods such as the yams and the Arto- 
carpus fruit and seed. Lowest in the scale, that is, least dangerous, 
are molluscs and the commoner sorts of fish and vegetable foods. 

The principles underlying this grading of foods are two. Those 
foods that are difficult or dangerous to procure are considered 
more dangerous than others. Thus all the fishes that are thought 
most dangerous to eat are actually dangerous, such as the sharks, 
the sting-rays, the armed Plotosus, and the fish komar that has 
a powerful spike on its head with which it can inflict a dangerous 
wound. Secondly the foods that are most prized are regarded as 
being more dangerous than those that are less prized. The 
internal fat of animals is regarded as a great delicacy and therefore 
occupies a high place in the scale. It is this also that explains 


the position of honey and of the edible grubs. The dugong, which 
is of all foods the most difificult and dangerous to procure, and is 
at the same time more highly prized than any other, is regarded 
as more dangerous to eat than any other. 

It is this difference in the danger attributed to different foods 
that gives the clue to the explanation of the beliefs relating to 
them. The hypothesis I wish to put forward is that the custom 
of painting the body after eating food is an expression of the 
social value of food. 

In a simple community such as that of the Andaman Islands, 
in which the necessary food has to be provided from day to day, 
food occupies a predominant position, and is the chief source of 
those variations or oscillations between conditions of euphoria 
and dysphoria that constitute the emotional life of the society. 
Food is obtainable only by the expenditure of effort, and the 
effort is a communal one. The obtaining of food is the principal 
social activity and it is an activity in which every able-bodied 
member of the community is required by custom to join. A man's 
first duty to the society may be defined as the duty of providing 
food for himself and others, and no one is looked on with 
more contempt than one who is lazy or careless in this respect. 
On the contrary the man who stands highest in the esteem of 
others is the skilful hunter who is generous in distributing to 
others the food he obtains. The food provides the community 
with its chief joys and sorrows. When food is scarce the whole 
community suffers. The men spend all their time in hunting but 
are disappointed. They have to fall back upon foods that are little 
relished, such as the commoner kinds of molluscs. On the con- 
trary when there is plenty of food the whole society rejoices 
together. Every one has as much as he or she can eat. Hunting 
and fishing become pleasant sports instead of arduous labour. 

Viewing the matter from its relation to the feelings of the 
individual we may say that it is particularly in connection with 
food that he is made to feel that he is a member of the community, 
sharing with others their joys and sorrows, taking part in a com- 
mon activity, often dependent upon others for the satisfaction of 
his hunger, and obliged by custom to share with those others 
what he himself obtains. Thus food is, for the Andaman Islander, 


the one object above all others that serves to awaken in him day 
after day the feeling of his relation to his fellows. It is also the 
source of a very large proportion of his joys and sorrows, his ex- 
citements and disappointments. Thus it is that when the natives 
wish to amuse each other it is by tales of hunting that they do 
so, and a large proportion of their songs relate to the getting of 

It is thus clear that food becomes an important secondary ' 
object of the fundamental affective dispositions that regulate the 
emotional attitude of the individual to the society to which he 
belongs. It is connected very closely with the feeling of moral 
obligation; the most valued moral qualities in the Andaman 
Islands are energy in providing food and generosity in distribut- 
ing it ; among the worst faults are laziness in hunting and meanness 
in giving to others. Similarly food is closely associated with the 
feeling of dependence. During childhood, particularly, the indi-^ 
vidual has to depend on others for his food ; evfen later in life 
the food that a man eats is more often provided by others thari 
by himself; he depends on the community even for his daily 

Different foods have different social values. Thus a dugong 
provides a large supply of a highly-prized delicacy, but on the 
other hand can only be obtained by strenuous and dangerous 
efforts of skilful hunters. At the other end of the sc^le the social 
value of shell-fish is very little. They are not relished and are 
only eaten when there is nothing better, while the labour of 
obtaining them is simply one of drudgery requiring little skill. 

Finally it must be pointed out that the value of food is both 
positive and negative. It is the source of conditions of social 
euphoria when it is plentiful ; while it is equally the source of 
social dysphoria when it is lacking. In other words, on different 
occasions it is the source of both pleasurable and painful states 
of the fundamental social sentiments. 

All these experiences connected with food organise themselves 
around the notion that foods, or the animals that are used for 
food, are things to be treated carefully, with respect, or, in other 
words, with ritual precautions. The sense of the social value of 
food reveals itself as a belief that food may be a source of danger 




unless it is approached with circumspection, and this belief, trans- 
lated into action, gives rise to the rite of painting the body after 
eating. This does not mean that when the Andaman Islander 
eats turtle he is actually in a state of fear; he feels that he would 
have reason to be afraid if it were not that the society has pro- 
vided him with a means of avoiding the dangers of turtle eating. 
What he does feel, then, as I have tried to show, is not a fear of 
food but a sense of the value of food. 

This interpretation will, I hope, be amply justified later, and the 
psychological processes assumed by it will be further illustrated. 
One point needs to be emphasised here, namely that the sug- 
gested interpretation affords, as no other would seem to do, an 
explanation of the fact that some foods are believed to be more 
dangerous than others, and that while it is obligatory to paint 
the body after eating the more dangerous foods, it is not necessary 
to do so after eating those that are less dangerous. If the rite is 
simply the expression of the social value of foods, it will follow 
that different food substances, having different social values, 
must be subject to differences in ritual treatment. 

There are a few other customs connected with food, recorded 
in an earlier chapter, which show that in general food is regarded 
as something that may only be approached with ritual precau- 
tions. A turtle must be killed with its head towards the open 
sea, and must be cut up in one particular way, otherwise the 
meat would be " bad." A pig must also be cut up in a particular 
way, and must be stuffed with certain leaves before it is roasted. 
A man will not eat certain foods when he is away from his own 
country, as he is afraid that to do so might make him ill. (This 
corresponds to the belief that there is less chance of illness in 
one's own country than away from it, and that the spirits of a 
strange place are more dangerous than those that haunt the 
jungles and the waters of a man's own home.) All these customs, 
I believe, are so many different expressions of the social value of 

I have maintained earlier in the chapter that the sense of the 
social value of such things as fire and the materials used for 
weapons translates itself into the belief that these things afford 
protection against danger. This would seem, at first sight, to be 


contradicted by the explanation that I have just given of the 
belief in the danger of food. The apparent contradiction must be 
faced and resolved before we can proceed further. 

First, it can be shown that the various things that are regarded 
as affording protection when used according to custom, are also 
believed to be dangerous, just in the same way that food is 
dangerous. One example of this will suffice. The fibre of the 
Anadefidron paniculatum, which is used for bow-strings and other 
purposes, has been shown to possess a power which gives it efficacy 
against dangers of the sea such as sharks. This same power, how- 
ever, may have injurious effects if the plant is handled without 
proper precautions. Thus, if a piece of the green creeper, or a 
person who has recently been handling it, should be in a canoe, 
it would be impossible to capture turtle from that canoe, as they 
would be driven away by the " smell " of the plant. If a piece of 
the creeper were burnt in the fire there would be a great storm, 
according to one statement, or all the turtle would be driven away 
from the vicinity, according to another. The handling of the plant 
in the preparation of the fibre, by scraping it on the thigh, is 
believed to be the cause of rheumatism. Turtle meat that might 
by accident come in contact with the plant would be dangerous 
and would therefore not be eaten. These different beliefs show 
us that while this plant possesses powers that make it of service 
to the society, both directly as a material for weapons, and in- 
directly as a magical protection against evil, it is also dangerous, 
i.e. it will produce undesirable effects unless treated with the 
proper ritual precautions. 

Now just as materials such as the Anadendron are dangerous 
but may yet be used protectively, so it can be shown that the 
things used for food are also capable of affording protection 
against evil. It may be recalled that an important element of 
the treatment of sickness is by the use of special foods. Yams, 
honey, the fat of turtle and dugong and other foods are believed 
to possess curative properties. The flesh of the flying-fox is used 
as a remedy for rheumatism. But the clearest evidence is pro- 
vided by the custom of wearing ornaments made of the bones of 
animals that have been eaten. These ornaments are believed to 
possess protective powers of the same kind as those attributed to 

B. A. 18 


human bones, but they are considered to be more particularly 
of value to the hunter when he is in the forest or on the sea. 
They are made chiefly from the bones of those animals that are 
believed to be most dangerous to eat. These animals are difficult 
and often dangerous to capture or kill. When obtained they 
become very important sources of well-being to the society. The 
Andamanese express their sense of the social value of these 
animals in the belief that it is necessary to adopt certain measures 
of ritual precaution in dealing with them. When these due pre- 
cautions are taken, however, then the society is able to make use 
of the flesh to serve its own ends. So, when an animal has been 
eaten, and has thus been made to serve as a source of advantage, 
of strength, the bones, which are the permanent remains of the 
feast, acquire a symbolic value as evidence of past social well- 
being, and omens of future security. They are a visible proof of 
the ability of the society to protect itself and its members from 
the dangers that are believed to threaten the human being in 
the most important activity of his life, the obtaining and eating 
of food. 

Formerly the Andamanese preserved the skulls of all large 
animals such as pigs, turtle and dugong. At the present day 
they no longer preserve the skulls of pigs, giving as their reason 
that owing to the dogs obtained from Europeans they now have 
little difficulty in killing pigs ; but they still preserve the skulls 
of dugongs, and a fair proportion of the skulls of turtle. The 
Jqrawa still seem to preserve with great care the skulls of all the 
pigs they kill, going to the pains of enclosing each one in a case 
of basket-work. These skulls, we must conclude, are more than 
mere trophies of the chase. As visible proofs of the ability of the 
society in the past to overcome the hostile powers of nature, they 
form, as it were, the guarantee of a similar ability in the future, 
and I believe that their preservation is regarded as a means of 
ensuring success in hunting as well as protection for the hunters. 
The turtle skulls that are often suspended under the forward 
platform of a canoe, are, I believe, intended both to protect the 
occupants of the canoe from the dangers of the sea and to help 
them to obtain a good catch. 

The Andamanese belief in the power of the bones of animals 


to protect them from danger and to bring them luck, is there- 
fore very similar to their belief in the protective power of the 
materials used for weapons and implements. The consideration 
of the apparent contradiction mentioned above has led us to a 
more exact statement of the real beliefs in these matters. They 
believe, we may say, that all the things from the jungle and 
the sea of which they make use as food or as materials, are 
dangerous unless approached with proper ritual precautions, but 
when so approached they become sources of strength and well- 
being and also of protection from unseen dangers. 

To return to the main argument, which was concerned with 
the meaning of the patterns of clay painted on the body after 
eating the more dangerous foods, it would seem that this action 
is really a rite or ceremony, of the same general character as 
other ceremonial customs of the Andamans. It is an action 
required by custom, the performance of which on appropriate 
occasions serves to keep alive in the mind of the individual a 
certain system of sentiments necessary for the regulation of con- 
duct in conformity to the needs of the society. By it the individual 
is made to feel (or to act as though he felt) that his life is one 
of continually repeated dangers from which he can only be pre- 
served by conforming to the customs of the society as they have 
been handed down by tradition. He is made to feel that the 
eating of food is not merely the satisfaction of an animal appetite, 
but an act of communion, that the food itself is something 
" sacred " (if we may use that word in the sense of the original 
Latin " sacer "). It serves also, like any other rite in which all 
join, to make the individual feel the solidarity and unity of the 
community ; all share in the common repast and the common 
danger, and each man sees on his neighbour the clay with which 
he himself is daubed. 

Of course it is probable that the Andamanese custom of 
painting the body after eating, like our own grace before and 
after meat, with which it is parallel, tends to become a formality 
accompanied by little real feeling, but it can be shown, I believe, 
that such customs do possess a real value — a real psychological 
function — in keeping alive ideas and sentiments that will on 
occasion play an important part in influencing conduct. 


We have not yet completed the study of the Andamanese 
beliefs about food. To do so we must examine the initiation 
ceremonies. I hope to show that these ceremonies are the means 
by which the society powerfully impresses upon the initiate the 
sense of the social value of food, and keeps the same sense alive 
in the minds of the spectators of the ceremony. 

The position in the social life occupied by a child is different 
from that of an adult ; the child is dependent upon and closely 
united to his parents, and is not an independent member of the 
community. To this difference in social position there corresponds 
a difference in the attitude of a person towards a child and towards 
an adult, and also a difference in the attitude of a child and that 
of an adult towards the society. As the child grows up a change 
takes place in his position in the social life, and this must be 
accompanied by a change in the emotional dispositions of the 
child himself in so far as these regulate his attitude towards the 
society, and by a change in the attitude towards the child of the 
other members of the group. The initiation ceremonies are the 
means by which these changes are brought about, and by which, 
therefore, the child is made an independent member of the society. 

The ceremonies have two aspects according as we regard them 
from the point of view of the society or from that of the initiate. 
For the society they are to be described as the recognition of 
the change of status of the initiate, just as the marriage ceremony 
is the social recognition of the change of status by marriage. 
For the initiate they constitute a sort of moral or social education. 

To fit a child for his proper place in the community he needs 
to be educated. Part of the process consists of learning how to 
hunt, how to make bows and arrows, and so on. This necessary 
knowledge he acquires gradually by imitation of his elders, in 
which he is guided and encouraged by them. But in addition to 
this he has to acquire those sentiments or emotional dispositions 
which regulate the conduct of members of the society and con- 
stitute morality. Part of this education in morality, this education 
of the sentiments, takes place gradually as the child grows up, 
less by any actual instruction than by processes of imitation and 
suggestion ; but in this connection an extremely important part 
is played by the initiation ceremonies. That the long series of 


abstentions and ceremonies does have a very powerful emotional 
effect on the youth or girl may be readily observed by an eye- 
witness ; that their permanent effect is to create in his or her 
mind a number of sentiments that previously existed not at all 
or only in an undeveloped condition will be shown in the course 
of the present argument. 

Since in the life of the Andamans by far the most important 
social activity is the getting of food, and it is in connection with 
food that the social sentiments are most frequently called into 
action, it is therefore appropriate that it should be through his 
relation to food that the child should be taught his relation to 
the society, and thus have those sentiments implanted in him or 
brought to the necessary degree of strength. During his infancy 
the child is almost entirely unrestrained and acts with great com- 
parative freedom. He does not realise, in any adequate manner, 
that the food with which he is freely provided (for children are 
the last to suffer hunger) is only obtained by skill and effort, nor 
does he realise that he will one day be required to labour to 
supply food for others. There follows a period of restraint, during '; 
which the growing boy or girl has to give up eating certain 
relished foods, and has to pass through a number of ceremonies, 
some of them painful, and all solemn and awe-inspiring. These 
restraints on the action of the individual are not imposed by one 
person, but by the whole society backed by the whole force of 
tradition. Through a series of years, just at what is, for physio- 
logical reasons, the most impressionable age, the individual learns 
to subordinate his own desires to the requirements of the society 
or of custom, as explained to him by his elders. He is thus im- 
pressed, in a forcible manner, with the importance of the moral 
law, and at the same time he is impressed with a sense of the 
social value of food. The ceremonies thus afford a moral education 
adapted to the requirements of life as it is lived in the Andamans. 
It would need a very lengthy analysis to show all the effects of 
the ceremonies on the emotional life of those who undergo them, 
and for the purpose of this chapter such an analysis is unnecessary. 
It will suffice merely to mention a few of the more important. 
As stated above, the ceremonies teach the boy or girl self-control 
or self-restraint, and they do so in relation to one of the two 


fundamental human instincts, — hunger. The cutting of the boy's 
back in the North Andaman gives a still sharper lesson in self- 
control in the endurance of pain. Secondly the ceremonies teach 
the initiate, for the first time in life, to view life and its duties 
and obligations seriously. The various ceremonies are all very 
solemn affairs for the initiate. Again, the growing boy or girl is 
made to feel very strongly the importance of conforming to the 
customs of the community to which he belongs, thus having im- 
planted in his mind what is certainly one of the most powerful 
of the sentiments that regulate conduct in the Andamans. In 
this connection there may also be mentioned the respect for 
elders which is a most important element in the regulation of 
social life in all savage communities, and which is strongly im- 
pressed on the initiate throughout the ceremonies. And yet again, 
the ceremonies awaken and develop in the adolescent that fear 
of unseen danger which, as we shall see later, has a very important 
place in the mental life of the Andamanese and an important 
function in their moral life. Finally, the whole series of absten- 
tions and ceremonies serves to develop in the mind of every new 
member of the society that sense of the social value of foods 
with which our argument has been concerned, which may be 
briefly described as being a realisation that food is a possession 
of the society, that not only the power to obtain food, but also 
the power to use it without danger is something that the individual 
owes to the society, and that the bestowal upon him. of this power 
involves the acceptance on his part of corresponding obligations. 
We may say, to look at the matter under another aspect,, 
that the initiation ceremonies teach the youth or girl to realise 
what is implied in being a member of the society by putting him 
or her during the period of adolescence in an exceptional position, 
and, as it were, outside the society. The youth is no longer a 
child and may not act as a child ; but he is not yet an adult and 
may not act as adults do. He feels himself cut off, as it were^ 
from the ordinary life of the group, having as yet no share in it. 
As a child he was not yet aware of what it means to be a member 
of a society, but now, by means of the ceremonies, his attention 
is directed to the society and its life, by his being placed in a 
position of isolation outside it. He begins to look forward to the 


time when he will take his proper place as an adult, and his 
share in the common life of the camp. At each step of the cere- 
monies he feels that he is brought a little closer, until at last he 
can feel himself a man amongst men. Thus he is brought to a 
consciousness of all that it must mean to him to be a member of 
the community; he is taught the significance and value of social 

Since the greater part of social life is the getting and eating 
of food, to place a person outside the social life would be to forbid 
him from partaking of the food that is obtained by the society 
and consumed by it. This, however, would result in his starvation. 
The same object is attained, however, by making the initiate 
abstain for a period from a number of the most important and 
relished foods, and then making him abstain for a second period 
from the others. This is not the only way however in which the 
initiate is cut off from social communion. A youth or girl who 
is aka-op is not permitted to dance, nor to be decorated with red 
paint and white clay. It is in the dance that the community 
expresses most completely its own unity. Being forbidden to 
join in the dance is therefore to be excluded from the common 
life. Painting the body with red paint and white clay is, as we 
have seen, a way of expressing that the individual is aware of 
his own position as a member of the group having the approval 
and good-will of his fellows. Thus these other prohibitions re- 
inforce and supplement the prohibition against eating certain 
foods during the period of adolescence, and the consideration of 
them serves to confirm the interpretation just given. I believe 
that the aka-op is also forbidden to use odu clay as a sign of 
mourning, and if this be so it is of considerable significance, as 
will be evident after we have considered the meaning of this use 
of clay. Unfortunately I am not quite sure of the facts, and so 
the point must be left. 

To discuss in detail all the features of these ceremonies would 
take much space. I propose therefore to take as typical of the 
others the ceremony of turtle-eating and to explain its various 
features. When this ceremony is performed the youth has been 
compelled for many months to abstain from eating turtle, and 
has thus learnt to realise the social value of food in general and 


of turtle in particular. He is now to have the same lesson im- 
pressed upon him in a different way. The previous part of his 
education has been the continuous action over a long period of 
a not very powerful emotion. He has had to sit quietly while 
others regaled themselves with turtle meat and to be satisfied with 
less tasty food. At times he has probably gone hungry because 
the only food in camp was of kinds that were forbidden to him. 
The ceremony he is now to go through acts by producing in the 
space of a few days a very intense emotional experience. We 
have seen that the sense of the social value of food takes the form 
of a belief that food is dangerous to eat, and that its dangers may 
only be avoided by ritual precautions. At the turtle-eating cere- 
mony the initiate is eating turtle for the first time as an adult, 
and is therefore exposed to great danger which makes it necessary 
to guard him with every possible ritual precaution. This, at any 
rate, is what the initiate himself is made to feel, and it is through 
this that the ceremony has its emotional effects. The initiate is 
not, of course, himself possessed by a simple feeling of fear, 
though the emotional state of his mind is built up on the basis 
of the fear instinct. What he is about to do is a matter of great 
danger to himself, but at the same time the precautions that are 
to be taken are such as entirely to remedy that danger if they 
are properly observed. Thus what he experiences is an intense 
feeling of the importance and solemnity of the ritual in which he 
is to take part. 

All the details of the ceremony are readily to be explained 
as so many different ways of warding off the danger that threatens 
the initiate. He is seated on leaves of the Hibiscus tiliaceus, 
which, as we have seen, possess special efficacy against dangers 
connected with turtle. Leaves of the same kind are placed under 
his arms so as to cover his belly, where, we may suppose, the 
danger is most intense. A fire is placed near him, between him 
and the open sea. It has already been shown that fire is believed 
to afford protection against dangers of this sort, and the appro- 
priateness of the position is due to the fact that in this instance 
it is from the sea and the things of the sea that danger is to be 
feared. He may not feed himself with his fingers, but must use 
a skewer of Hibiscus wood. This is clearly only one more pre- 


caution against danger, though the ideas connected with it are 
somewhat obscure. At the beginning of the ceremony the initiate 
is fed with turtle by a man who conducts the ceremony and who 
represents the society, that latter fact being sometimes symbolised 
by his wearing round his shoulders a bark sling such as is used 
for carrying children. This means, I think, that it is the society 
that " gives " the food to the initiate, giving him at the same time 
the power to use it with safety. The older man hands on to the 
3'ounger the right and the power to eat which he himself possesses. 
He makes himself responsible, as it were, for the action of the 
initiate. At one stage of the performance the initiate is rubbed 
over with red ochre. This is to be understood by recalling that 
red ochre and red paint are regarded by the natives as valuable 
remedies against sickness and against the spirits that cause sick- 
ness. Immediately afterwards the body of the initiate is spattered 
with odn clay. The use of this clay after eating food was explained 
as a method of avoiding the dangers supposed to result from 
eating such foods as turtle. It is clear that exactly the same 
explanation will apply to its use in the initiation ceremonies. 
I have not found a satisfactory explanation of the peculiar 
manner in which it is applied. That the youth is not allowed to 
sleep for the first two days of the ceremony will be explained 
later in the chapter, when it will be shown that sleep itself is 
regarded as a condition of danger. ->;— 

A notable incident is that at the beginning of the ceremony 
the female relatives of the initiate are required by custom to 
come and weep over him. An explanation of this has already 
been given, but may well be repeated. At each stage of the 
initiation ceremonies the initiate is withdrawn from the position 
of dependence that the child necessarily occupies, and as children 
are, for the most part, under the care of their elder female relatives, 
the ceremonies result in a partial destruction of those bonds that 
unite the initiate to his mother or his foster-mother and her 
sisters or to his own elder sisters. The weeping of the female 
relatives is as it were a reaction against this lessening of solidarity. 
It is evident why the rite is necessarily one-sided. The female 
relatives need to feel that they are not being entirely cut off from 
the initiate, and so they affirm their attachment to him by weeping 


over him. On the other hand the important thing for the initiate 
himself is to feel that the bonds that united him as a child to the 
women who cared for him are now severed or modified ; he must 
no longer depend on them but must learn to depend on himself; 
hence it is necessary that he should not weep but should remain 
passive and as it were indifferent under the tears that are shed 
oyer him. 

The last part of the ceremony consists of a dance, in which 
the youth dances in the middle surrounded by a ring of men. 
As we have seen that dancing is in general an affirmation of 
solidarity between those taking part, and an expression of the 
unity of the society, we may well regard this dance as an affirma- 
tion of the solidarity that now exists between the youth and 
the other dancers, who are representatives of the society of 
adults. There is something more in the dance than this however. 
I pointed out that one of the results of taking part in a dance is to 
produce in the individual an experience of increased personal 
force, and it is obvious that this is a very appropriate feeling for 
the initiate who, by his long abstention from turtle, and by the 
ceremony he has just been through, has acquired an increase of 
personal force, an addition to his social personality. Before the 
dance the initiate is decorated with white clay (the snake pattern) 
and red paint. I have explained this particular method of 
painting the body as being a means of expressing and so pro- 
ducing or reinforcing the feeling of elation accompanying the 
recognition by an individual of his own social value, of the fact 
that he has deserved and obtained the good-will and regard of 
his fellows. The youth who has been through the period of 
restraint and the ordeal of the ceremony has done his duty and 
has earned the approbation of his friends. It is for this reason 
that he alone of the dancers is decorated with the painting that 
serves to express or arouse the elation or self-satisfaction that it 
is right for him to feel. The painting is the mark of the increase 
in social value of the initiate brought about by the turtle-eating 

There is one aspect of the dance that may be mentioned as 
being of importance, and which will be referred to again later, 
namely that the movements seem to be in a way imitative of the 


movements of turtle in the water. The leaves used in the dance 
are those that possess magical efficacy against dangers from 

I have not been able to satisfy myself as to the meaning of 
the belt and necklace of Pothos scandens worn by the initiate in 
the dance and for some days afterwards. It is probable that the 
clue to this lies in the resemblance of the leaves to the shape of 
a phallus, but I have no clear evidence that this is the real explana- 
tion, and therefore offer it as merely a surmise. 

If the natives be asked the reason for these ceremonies they 
often reply that their purpose is to make the youth or girl grow ' 
up strong. By this word " strong " they seem to mean in the first I 
instance able-bodied, skilful (in hunting, etc.) and above all able! 
to avoid or resist disease. They believe that anyone who did 
not pass through the ceremonies would be certain to die at an 
early age, and they recall the instance of one young man who 
refused to submit to the ceremonies who died before reaching 
maturity. Now, since the danger that they fear in eating food is 
said to be sickness, we may translate their statement into other 
terms by saying that the purpose of the initiation ceremonies is 
to endow the initiate with the power to eat the dangerous foods 
with comparative safety. 

It would seem that an infant, being completely dependent 
upon his parents, is protected by that dependence from the 
danger of foods, but the adult is only able to make use of food 
with safety by reason of the possession within himself of a special 
power with which it is the purpose of the initiation ceremonies 
to endow him. Each kind of food has its own kind of dangerous 
power, and therefore every individual needs to be endowed with 
the special power to avoid each kind of danger. For this reason 
there is a separate ceremony for each of the important kinds of 
food. Thus we see very clearly that, for the Andamanese, food, 
or the power to make use of food without danger, is essentially 
a possession of the society, and one function of the initiation 
ceremonies is to keep alive this sentiment. 

But there is a further meaning, I think, lying behind the 
statement that the initiation ceremonies endow the youth or 
girl with strength. I have already argued that all the most 


important social sentiments are closely associated with the sense 
t^ of the social value of food, and although the initiation ceremonies 
are chiefly concerned with food, that is only because that is 
the easiest way by which to get at the main system of social 
sentiments. So that behind the special meaning of the ceremonies 
with relation to food we must look for a more general meaning 
in relation to the social life in general. This may be conveniently 
stated by saying that the purpose of the ceremonies is to endow 

I the individual with a social personality. By the social personality 
of a person I mean the sum of those qualities by which he is 
able to affect the society. It is, in other words, what gives him 
his social value. The social personality depends in the first place 
on the social status of the individual. A young child seems to 
be regarded as having no social personality. He is not an inde- 
pendent member of the society, and therefore has no immediate 
social value, no direct effect on the general social life. At any 
rate the social personality of a child is something very different 
from that of an adult. So, since the initiation ceremonies provide 
the passage from childhood to manhood or womanhood we may 

I describe them as the means by which the society endows the 
)k child with an adult social personality. 

But the social personality of an individual also depends on 
his personal qualities, his strength and intelligence, his skill as 
a hunter, and on his moral qualities, whether he is mean or 
generous, quarrelsome or good-tempered, and so on, for all these 
things help to determine the place he occupies in the social life 
and the effects he has upon it. Above all, the social personality 
depends upon the development in the individual of those senti- 
ments by which the social life is regulated and by which the 
social cohesion is preserved. Now we have seen that the initiation 
ceremonies do serve to develop these sentiments in the mind of 
the initiate, and we may therefore say that in this respect also it 
is true that the initiation ceremonies serve to develop in the 
child the social personality of an adult. 

The consideration of the initiation ceremonies has served to 
confirm the hypothesis that the Andamanese customs relating 
to food are all of them different modes of expressing the social 
value of foods. We have now to consider the nature of the 


dangers that are supposed to accrue from the eating of food if 
due precautions be not taken. One statement of the natives is 
that the danger they fear is sickness. Now sickness of all kinds 
is believed by the Aridamanese to be caused by certain super- 
natural beings called Lau or Cauga, — the spirits of the dead; 
and further, we have seen that the danger connected with food 
is sometimes said to be the danger of an attack by the spirits. 
So that it is evident that to understand the meaning of the fear 
of foods it is first of all necessary to understand the notions they 
have about the spirits, and to do this we shall have to consider 
the various customs relating to death and burial. 

For the society a daath is the loss of one of its members, one 
of its constituent parts. A person occupies a definite position 
in society, has a certain share in the social life, is one of the 
supports of the network of social relations. His death constitutes 
a partial destruction of the social cohesion, the normal social 
life is disorganised, the social equilibrium is disturbed. After 
the death the society has to organise itself anew and reach a 
new condition of equilibrium. In reference to the small com- 
munity of the Andamans we may translate the above statement 
into terms of personal feeling by saying that the death removes 
a person who was the object of feelings of affection and attach- 
ment on the part of others and is thus a direct offence against 
those sentiments in the survivors. 

Though the dead man has ceased to exist as a member of 
the society, it is clear that he has by no means ceased to in- 
fluence the' society. On the contrary he has become the source 
of intense painful emotions. Where the affection that was felt 
towards him was previously a source of pleasure it now becomes 
a 'source of pain. Defining the " social personality " of an in- 
dividual as being the sum of characteristics by which he has an 
effect upon the social life and therefore on the social sentiments 
of others, we may say that by death the social personality is not 
annihilated but undergoes a profound change, so that from being 
an object of pleasurable states of the social sentiments it becomes 
an object of painful states. This is expressed by the Andamanese 
by saying that by death a man or woman becomes a Lau. 

The burial customs of the Andaman Islanders, however, are 


not to be regarded as simply the expression of natural personal 
feeling. They are a collective and ritual expression of a collective 
feeling. This is evident from the fact that they are regulated 
in every detail by custom. It is the duty of the relatives and 
friends to mourn, whether they feel sorrow or not, and it is 
equally their duty to mourn only for a certain period. 

The cohesion of a social group, by which is maintained its 
existence as a group, depends directly on the existence of a 
collective system of sentiments or affective dispositions that bind 
every member to every other. The death, or removal by any 
other means, of a member of the group is a direct attack against 
these sentiments. Now whenever a sentiment of any kind is 
subjected to an attack of such a kind as this there are only two 
possible alternatives ; either the sentiment must suffer a diminu- 
tion of its intrinsic energy, and thus be less capable of controlling 
behaviour in the future; or it must find an outlet in an expressive 
action of some sort which serves as a reaction of defence or 
compensation and restores the sentiment to its former condition 
of strength. The typical example of such an emotional reaction 
is anger ; anything that wounds our self-regarding feelings arouses 
our anger; if it did not do so those feelings would gradually 
weaken. This law holds true of collective sentiments as well as 
of individual sentiments. If the society permitted its solidarity 
to be attacked, whether by death or by any other means, without 
reacting in such a way as to give relief to wounded social feelings 
and so to reinstate them in their former condition, these senti- 
ments would lose their strength and the society its cohesion. 
The burial customs of the Andamanese are to be explained, 
I believe, as a collective reaction against the attack on the 
collective feeling of solidarity constituted by the death of a 
member of the social group. 

The man being dead, the first thing that the society does is 
to sever its connection with him, and the first step in this process 
is to get rid of the body by burying it or placing it in a tree, to 
abandon the camp at which he died, and temporarily to drop 
the use of his name. It is often supposed that customs such as 
these, which are found in many primitive societies, are due to 
the fear of the dead man's spirit. That there is an element of 


fear present is undoubtedly true, but this fear does not seem to 
be by any means instinctive, and therefore comparable to the 
fear that some animals exhibit towards the dead body of one 
of their species. On the contrary the fear itself needs to be 
explained, and this will have to be attempted later. 

There is one group of facts which show very clearly that the 
burial customs are not solely due to an instinctive fear of dead 
bodies, namely that the customs vary according to the social 
position of the deceased. A child plays very little part in the 
general life of the community; hence on the death of a child the 
camp is not deserted and only the parents are subjected to the 
mourning ritual. Similarly the death of a person who has for 
long been so ill as not to be able to take any important part in 
social life has very little effect on the community as a whole; 
the body of such a one is disposed of with scant ceremony and 
mourning is perfunctory. On the other hand the death of a 
noted hunter in the prime of life, of a man who is esteemed as a 
leader, is a much greater loss; the whole community mourns 
for him ; his body is placed on a tree instead of in the ground, 
showing that his death is regarded as something different from 
the death of a person who is interred. The body of a stranger 
who dies or is killed is not buried, but is thrown into the sea or 
cut up and burnt. The explanation that the natives give of this 
custom of burning the body is that it serves to dispel danger 
that might accrue from the presence of the dead body of a 
stranger. The blood and the fat of the dead man, from which 
they appear to fear evil influences, are, they say, driven up to 
the sky in the smoke of the fire and are thus rendered harmless. 

There is, then, a close correspondence between the manner 
of burial and the social value of the person buried, and it is 
evident that the differences in the mode of disposing of the body 
are quite inexplicable on the assumption that the funeral customs 
are solely due to the fear of the dead. 

Before burial the corpse is decorated with white clay and red 
paint. We have already seen that this is an expression on the 
part of the survivors of their regard for the deceased. A living 
man or woman is decorated in this way when, for some special 
reason, it is desired to express the fact that he or she has the 


good-will and regard of others, and it is applied to the dead 
body with exactly the same meaning. Fire and water are placed 
beside the grave. It is not necessary to suppose that the Anda- 
manese believe that the spirit of the dead man makes any use of 
these, any more than it is necessary for us to believe that the 
spirit enjoys the flowers that it is our custom to place upon the 
grave. The action in each case is symbolical. 

The dead man was bound by ties of solidarity to those still 
living. Now that he is dead those ties have not ceased to exists 
but continue until the society has recovered from the effects of 
the death, for they are based on deep-seated and elaborately 
organised sentiments. I believe that the mourning customs of 
the Andamanese are to be explained on this basis, as being the 
means by which the social sentiments of the survivors are slowly 
reorganised and adapted to the new condition produced by the 
death. The severance of the dead man from the society is not 
a sudden but a gradual process, during which his relatives and 
friends, being still attached to him by social ties, are in an ab- 
normal condition which may be defined as a partial separation 
from the world of living men and women and a partial aggre- 
gation to the world of the dead (i.e. the spirit world). This 
abnormal condition of the mourner is shown chiefly in his or 
her withdrawal from participation in the ordinary life of the 
society. We have seen that the eating of food is, for the Anda- 
manese, one of the most important of social actions, a kind 
of communion of the society, and that during the period of 
adolescence a youth is separated or withdrawn from the common 
life of the group by being forbidden to eat certain foods. So, in 
strict conformity with the same set of notions, the mourner is 
separated from the normal life of the society by being forbidden 
to eat pork or turtle, these being the most important foods that 
the Andamanese have\ Like the aka-op, also, the mourner is 

^ In a number of tribes of Western Australia I found an exactly similar custom. 
It was formerly the rule that after the death of a near relative the mourner must 
abstain from eating kangaroo, that being the largest game animal. Since the establish- 
ment of sheep stations in their country, with the consequent great decrease in numbers 
of the kangaroo, it has come about that the animal which now provides their most 
important supply of meat is the sheep, and the modern rule is that a mourner must not 
eat mutton. 


forbidden to take part in a dance, or to decorate himself with 
red paint and white clay, for by these actions the Andaman 
Islander becomes conscious of his position as a member of a 
closely unified group, and it is necessary for the mourner, as for 
the aka-op, to feel that for the time being he is cut off from the 
ordinary life of the group. The disuse, during the period of 
mourning, of the name of a mourner is to be explained, as we 
shall see more plainly later, on the same principle, the personal 
name being what marks the person's position in the social life, 
so that the temporary dropping of the name shows that for 
the time being the person is not occupying his normal social 

The distinctive sign of a mourner is the use of clay, which is 
smeared over the body and head, and from the name of this 
clay is derived the term that denotes a mourner {aka-odu). It is 
possible to explain this also as a symbolic expression of the 
separation of the mourner from the world of living men and his 
aggregation to the world of the dead. In his everyday life the 
Andaman Islander is black from head to foot. During mourning 
he turns himself as nearly as possible white from head to foot, 
by covering his body all over with clay. It must be remembered 
that the spirits of the dead are said to be white or light in 
colour. This is undoubtedly one of the reasons why the (light- 
coloured) natives of India are called spirits {Lau), while men of 
such a dark-coloured race as the African negroes are not referred 
to by this term. The use of clay would therefore seem to serve 
not only to make the mourner unlike his ordinary self, but to 
make him like the spirits of the dead. 

Of course, the natives explain all these customs of mourning 
as being expressions of sorrow for their loss, and this is, from 
the simple standpoint of everyday life, an adequate and true 
explanation. From the standpoint of psychology, however, what 
we need to know is why the sorrow is expressed in just these 
ways and no others. Moreover, the natives ^ivQ as a further 
reason for the mourning customs that if they did not observe 
them they would be liable to sickness or even death. 

I have said that the Andamanese believe that by death a 
man or woman becomes a Lau, but there is a little uncertainty 

B. A. 19 


in the statements of the natives as to whether he becomes a 
spirit at once, immediately after the death, or whether he does 
so only after the flesh of the body has decayed. Both state- 
ments are sometimes made, but it seems common to think of 
the dead person during the period of mourning not as a spirit 
{Lau) but as a dead man {einpild). We may best express the 
ideas of the natives by saying that the process by which a man 
becomes a spirit is one that takes some months to complete, and 
is only ended when the bones are dug up. An interesting insight 
into their notions in this matter is afforded by a belief, about 
which unfortunately I have very scanty information, to the effect 
that when a man dies he is initiated into the world of the dead 
by a ceremony resembling the ceremonies by which a youth is 
initiated into manhood. In the statement of an Aka-Kede in- 
formant the ceremony was spoken of by the term kimil, which 
is generally used for the initiation ceremonies, and was described 
as a poroto-kimil, i.e., a ceremony in which the dead man ate 
pqroto {Caryota soboliferd) in just the same way that a youth eats 
turtle {cokbi) at the cokbi-kimil. There is independent evidence 
that there is a special connection between the spirits of the dead 
and the Caryota palm\ 

The description of this ceremony (of initiation into the world 
of the dead) that was given to me stated that in it the shredded 
fibre named koro was used in just the same way as the leaves of 
the Hibiscus are used in the turtle-eating ceremony. Further, 
as in the peace-making ceremony men stand against a suspended 
cane from which depend bunches of this same koro, so in the 
initiation into the spirit world the initiate has to stand against 
the rainbow while the dancing spirits shake it and him. It is 
this shaking of the rainbow (according to my informant) that 
causes earthquakes. It may be recalled that the rainbow is 
regarded as a sort of bridge between this world and the spirit 
world, and that its name is "the spirit's cane," so that it would 
seem that it is regarded as like a cane with koro fibre suspended 
from it, such as is used in the peace-making ceremony. 

The explanation of the use of this koro fibre was postponed 
earlier in the chapter, and may well be undertaken here. It serves 

^ Page 171. 


as a sign that the spot where it is placed is tabu, or, in more 
precise terms, that the spot must be avoided because of the pre- 
sence there of a force or power that makes things dangerous. 
This force is present at the grave of a dead man, and therefore 
the fibre is placed at the grave to mark the fact, while a bunch 
is similarly suspended at the entrance to a village that is deserted 
after a death. In the peace-making ceremony the members of the 
one party stand against a suspended cane to which are attached 
strips of the fibre. The meaning of this, I think, is that it thus 
forbids the members of the other party from attacking them. If 
a man were to leave the screen of koro, he would, I believe, be 
liable to be killed by the enemy party ; it is only as long as he 
stands against it with his arms outstretched that he is safe, 
because while there he is tabu. 

How then does this belief in the fibre as a mark of tabu come 
about ? The fibre is worn by the women of the Little Andaman 
to cover their pudenda, and it was formerly worn in this way by 
the women of the North Andaman. We may conclude that this 
was an old element in the Andaman culture dating back to the 
remote period when the inhabitants of the Little Andaman became 
separated from those of the Great Andaman. Now in a very 
special sense the sexual organs of women are tabu, and, without 
discussing the matter in detail, we may suppose that the Andaman 
Islander regards the genitals of women as a spot in which resides 
the same sort of force or power that makes the spirits, or the 
body of a dead man, dangerous. One point may be mentioned 
as throwing light on this subject, and helping forward the argu- 
ment, namely that the natives of the North Andaman often use 
the expression Lau-buku (meaning literally " spirit-women " or 
" female spirits ") to denote women collectively instead of the 
phrase that might be expected — n'e-buku. It would seem that by 
reason of their sex and the special ideas that are associated with 
it, women are regarded as having a very special relation with the 
world of spirits. We may conclude that the koro fibre, being a 
convenient material for the purpose, was first used as a covering 
for the women, and in this way came to be used as a sign of 
tabu in general, or else that for some unknown reason the fibre 
was selected as a suitable material to mark any kind of tabu, and 

19 — 2 


SO came to be used both as a covering for women and also as a 

sign of warning at the grave and the village that has been visited 

by deaths 

' To return from this digression to the question of the initiation 

of the dead man into the world of spirits, it is clear that since such 

^ ceremonies take time to accomplish there is a period during which 

the dead man is in an indeterminate position ; he is no longer a 

member of the society of the living, and has not yet become 

a member of the society of the dead. As long as he is thus 

situated his relatives and friends are still attached to him, so that 

he still remains as it were in partial contact with the living. 

During this time the society is still suffering the ill effects of the 

death, and the process of readjustment by means of the customs 

of mourning is still taking place. At the end of it the dead man 

j becomes completely absorbed in the spirit world, and as a spirit 

ij he has no more part in or influence over the social life than any 

other spirit, and the mourning is brought to a close by means of 

a ceremony. 

This ceremony has two parts. One is the recovery of the 
bones and their reaggregation to the society, a rite which we may 
regard as the final settling of the dead man in his proper place. 
All that is left of him, who was once a source of strength to the 
community, who had once — as it is here expressed — a social 
value, are the bones, his name, and the memory of him that his 
friends retain. We may suppose that the bones still have some- 
thing of the value that originally attached to their owner, and 
indeed it is evident that they have, for after they are recovered 
they are affectionately treasured as relics by the relatives. By 
the end of the period of mourning the painful feelings aroused 
by the death have died down, so that the dead man is now the 
object only of memories that are pleasant, or, at the worst, bitter- 
sweet. The bones, then, are visible evidences of the fact that the 
society has recovered from the disruptive shock of the death, and 
this is why they are dug up as soon as the recovery is complete, 
or rather in order to complete it, and are thereafter treasured. 

^ The brakes formed by the cane (bido) from the leaves of which the koro fibre is 
obtained seem to be regarded as lurking places of the spirits. The natives often speak 
of the Bido-tec-lau {Calamus leaf spirits). 


It should now be clear why the Andamanese attribute to the 
bones of dead persons the power to protect them from unseen 
dangers. Like the bones of animals that have been eaten they 
are visible and wearable signs of past dangers overcome through 
the protective action of the society itself, and are therefore a 
guarantee of similar protection in the future. And as the death 
of a member is an enormously more important event for the 
community than the mere killing and eating of a dugong, so an 
enormously greater protective power is attributed to the human 
bones than to those of any animal. 

The bones, then, are dug up, and brought into camp, where 
they are wept over just as a friend who has been absent is wept 
over. All that is left of the former person returns to the social 
life, henceforward to occupy a definite place in it, and the weep- 
ing is the rite of aggregation, the expression of the attachment 
of those who weep to the bones that now return to them from 
the grave. The skull and jawbone and the long bones are then 
decorated with red paint and white clay, this being the way in 
which the relatives express their sense of the value of them. The 
other bones are made up into strings and distributed to be used 
on occasion as amulets. 

Soon after the digging up of the bones the other part of the 
ceremony of the end of mourning takes place. We have seen 
that while the dead man was in an indeterminate position his 
relatives were still attached to him by social bonds, but now that 
he has finally become a spirit, and is for ever definitely cut off ] 
from the human society, these bonds cease to exist. The mourners, j 
therefore, who have been cut off from the normal social life are free / 
to return to it and even if they should not so desire, yet it is their t 
duty to do so. The return of the mourners to the society is ). 
marked by a dance. The clay that has marked their condition '' 
is taken off, and they are decorated with white clay and red paint 
and all the ornaments usual on ceremonial occasions. Thus 
decorated they dance, the women on this occasion being required 
to dance as well as the men. The dance is interrupted shortly after 
it is begun in order that those who have not been mourning may 
weep with the mourners. The weeping, according to the expla- 
nation at the beginning of the chapter is a rite of aggregation by 


which the mourners are welcomed back to the society, just as 
returning friends are welcomed after an absence. It has nothing 
whatever to do, I believe, with the dead person for whom they 
have been mourning, but is merely an expression of solidarity 
between those still alive. Dancing and the decorations used in 
the dance, I have argued, are means by which the society ex- 
presses its own unity, and makes the individual realise what it 
means to be one of a group, so that in this dance we see the 
society once more coming together to continue its common life, 
and compelling those who have been cut off from it to feel, even 
against their inclinations, that they have become once more units 
of the social body. After this ceremony the mourners are relieved 
from the restrictions to which they were subjected. 

In order to complete this discussion of the burial customs it 
is necessary to explain why a person's name should be dropped 
from use after his death, and although this will require a digres- 
sion of some length, this seems the most convenient point at 
which to deal with it. There is a very special relation between 
the name of anything and its fundamental characteristics, which 
in logic we describe by saying that the latter are included in the 
connotation of the name. The way in which the Andamanese 
represent this relation to themselves is shown in one of the legends.. 
At a time when the ancestors did not know either the names or 
the uses of the different objects to be found in their country, one 
of them. Da Teyat by name, walked through the forest enquiring 
of the objects he met what were their names. From most of them 
he received no reply, but the yam and the resin replied to him 
and gave him their names. The legend shows that as soon as the 
hero of the tale knew the name of the yam he immediately knew 
that it was of use as a food and that it required to be cooked in 
a particular way, although he was till then ignorant of those 
important properties. Similarly, having discovered the name of 
the resin he knew that it could be made into a torch and so used 
to give light. 

There is, to the mind of the Andaman Islander, a somewhat 
similar and very important connection between a person's name 
and what is here called his social personality, and this is ex- 
hibited in the customs whereby the name is avoided on certain 


occasions. A consideration of the different instances will show, 
I think, that the name is always avoided whenever the owner is 
for any reason prevented from taking his or her usual place in 
the life of the society. At such times the social personality 
is as it were suppressed, and the name which represents it is 
therefore also suppressed. 

From the moment of her first menstruation to the. date of her 
marriage, or more strictly to the date of her first parturition, the 
birth-name of a woman is dropped from use and she is called by 
her flower-name. A woman only attains her complete social per- 
sonality as a mother. As a child she has not the power to become 
a mother. She acquires that power at her first menstruation and 
therefore from that time until this new virtue is actively exercised 
she is in a position in which one of her virtues, one of the quali- 
ties making up her social personality, is in abeyance. Therefore 
her name (her birth-name) is not used and she is given a tem- 
porary name in its place, a flower-name. She is, as it were, in 
blossom, and only when her body ripens to its fruit is she a 
complete woman. 

At certain stages of the initiation ceremonies the name of a 
youth or of a girl (the flower-name in this instance) is avoided 
for a certain period. Such occasions are during, and for some 
time after, any of the more important ceremonies, such as the 
cutting of the boy's back, the puberty ceremony of the girl, the 
turtle-eating and pig-eating ceremonies. After a boy's back is 
cut he is addressed and spoken of for some time as Ejido, his 
own name not being spoken. Similarly during and after the 
turtle-eating or the pig-eating ceremony he is addressed and 
spoken of by the name Kiinil. The explanation of these customs 
is that at these times the initiate is in an abnormal position by 
reason of the ceremony that has taken place, and is not permitted 
to take an ordinary part in social life. After the initiation cere- 
mony, for example, the youth is not permitted to handle a bow 
for some weeks (the bow being the typical masculine implement). 

The names of a newly-married couple are avoided for a fewdays 
after their marriage. Marriage produces an important change in 
the social personality, and this change is expressed in the marriage 
ceremony, but all such changes take time, and it is some days at 


least before the married couple can be expected to have settled 
down in their new positions. For these days, therefore, their 
names are not used. The same sort of explanation will hold for 
the custom of dropping the names of a father and mother before 
and after the birth of a child, particularly the first born. 

At the turtle-eating ceremony of the North Andaman coast- 
dwellers the youth is given a new name. It is possible that a girl 
is also given a new name at this time, and that another name is 
also given to the youth at the pig-eating ceremony, but on these 
points I neglected to make sufficient enquiry. The name given 
at the turtle-eating ceremony is never used and is not likely to 
be known except to those who were present at the ceremony, and 
therefore serves no such purpose as the flower-name of the girl. 
The giving of the name is simply the mark of the change of 
social personality brought about by the ceremony. The youth 
receives an addition to his personality and therefore receives an 
additional name. It is significant that all the names given at this 
ceremony have reference to the sea and to things of the sea, par- 
ticularly to turtle, such as Cokbi-ciro, turtle-liver, Cokbi-tei, turtle- 
blood, etc. 

During the period of mourning, when, as we have seen, the 
mourner is withdrawn from the ordinary life of the society, his 
name is not used, showing that during this period his social per- 
sonality is in a state of partial suppression. After the mourning 
period is over the mourner, when he resumes his social personality, 
resumes at the same time his name. 

Now death is the most fundamental modification of the social 
personality that is possible and therefore the name of a person 
recently dead is strictly avoided. Death, however, does not de- 
stroy the social personality utterly and for ever, but produces in 
it a profound change, which begins at the death itself and is only 
completed at the end of and by means of the customs of mourn- 
ing. After the mourning is over the virtues of the dead man 
affect the survivors through memory, and his bones form a 
precious possession of the community, thus constituting for him 
a new social value, a new personality. During the period of 
change, while the personality does not exist in the same form 
as before the death, but does not yet exist in the form in which 


it will when he lives only in the memory of his friends, the name 
is not used. After the mourning period is over the name may 
again be used. 

In general then, it may be said that at any period in which a 
person is undergoing a critical change in his condition in so far 
as it affects the society his name falls out of use, to be resumed 
when the period of change is over. The reason for this is that 
during such periods of change the social personality is suppressed 
or latent and therefore the name which is closely associated with 
the social personality must be suppressed also. 

The customs of burial and mourning are therefore seen to be 
not simply the result of natural feelings of fear and sorrow but 
ritual actions performed under a sense of obligation and strictly 
regulated by tradition. They are means by which the society 
acts upon its members, compelling them to feel emotions appro- 
priate to the occasion. Since the dead person has, by his death, 
become a cause of social disruption, all contact with him must be 
avoided. But the dead man had a certain value to the society, 
and as a thing of any kind cannot be valued unless its loss is felt 
as a source of pain, so if the community did not mourn when it 
lost one of its members that feeling of the social value of indi- 
viduals on which the existence of the society depends would soon 
diminish in strength, thereby weakening the social cohesion. 

It is now possible for us to understand the Andamanese beliefs 
about the spirits. The basis of these beliefs, I wish to maintain, 
is the fact that at the death of an individual his social personality 
(as defined above) is not annihilated, but is suddenly changed. 
This continuance after death is a fact of immediate experience 
to the Andaman Islanders and not in any way a deduction. The 
person has not ceased to exist. For one thing his body is still 
there. But above all he is still the object of the social sentiments 
of the survivors, and thereby he continues to act upon the society. 
The removal of a member of the group is felt not as something 
negative but as the positive cause of great social disturbance. 

The spirits are feared or regarded as dangerous. The basis of 
this fear is the fact that the spirit (i.e. the social personality of a 
person recently dead) is obviously a source of weakness and dis- 
ruption to the community, affecting the survivors through their 



attachment to him, and producing a condition of dysphoria, of 
diminished social activity. The natural impulse of the Andaman 
Islander or of any other human being, would be, I believe, not to 
shun the dead body of a loved one, but to remain near it as long 
as possible. It is the society, acting under a quite different set of 
impulses, that compels the relatives to separate themselves from 
the remains of the one they loved. The death of a small child has 
very little influence on the general activity of the community, 
and the motive for severing connection with the dead that is 
present in the case of an adult, either does not exist or is so weak 
as to be overruled by the private feelings of affection, and so the 
child is buried in the hut of the parents, that they may continue 
to keep it near them. This affords a good test of the hypothesis, 
and gives strong support to the view that the fear of the dead 
man (his body and his spirit) is a collective feeling induced in 
the society by the fact that by death he has become the object 
of a dysphoric condition of the collective consciousness. 

If the Andamanese are asked what they fear from the spirit 

of a dead man they reply that they fear sickness or death, 

^, and that if the burial and mourning customs are not properly 

observed the relatives of the dead person will fall sick and 

perhaps die. 

The basis of this notion of the spirits is that the near relatives 
of the deceased, being bound to him by close social ties, are in- 
fluenced by everything that happens to him, and share in his 
good or evil fortune. So that when by sickness and resulting 
death he is removed from the community, they are as it were 
drawn after him. For this reason they are, during the period of 
mourning, between life and death, being still attached to the dead 
man. Contact with the world of the dead is therefore regarded 
as dangerous for the living because it is believed that they may 
be drawn completely into that world. Death is a process by 
which a person leaves the living world and enters the world of 
the spirits, and since no one dies willingly he is conceived as 
being under a compulsive force acting from the world of spirits. 
Now sickness is a condition that often ends in death, a first stage 
,v. of the way leading to the world of spirits. Hence sickness is 
conceived by the Andamanese as a condition of partial contact 


with that world. This is what is meant by the statement that 
sickness and death come from the spirits. 

The way the Andamanese think about the spirits is shown in 
the Akar-Bale legend of the origin of deaths Yaramurud, having 
died through an accident, self-caused, becomes a spirit, but he 
does so only under the compulsion exercised upon him by his 
mother, who, now that he is dead, insists that he must go away 
from the world of the living and become a spirit. The spirit 
then comes back to see his brother and by this contact causes the 
brother's death. The story implies that it was not because Yara- 
murud was evilly disposed towards his brother that he killed him, 
but on the contrary it was his attachment to his relative that 
caused him to return to visit him, and death followed as a result 
of this contact of the living man with the spirit. Since that time 
deaths have continued to occur in the same way. Thus it appears 
that the Andamanese conceive that the spirits do not cause 
death and sickness through evil intention, but through their mere 
proximity, and, as the legend very clearly shows, the burial customs 
are intended to cut off the unwilling spirit from contact with the 
living. This explains also why during the period of mourning 
the relatives of a dead person are thought to be in danger of 
sickness, and have more to fear from the spirit than others, for 
since it is they who were most attached to him during life it is 
they who are most likely to suffer from contact with him after 
he is dead. It was Yaramurud' s brother who was the first to die 
through the influence of the spirits. ___——• 

The feelings of the living towards the spirits of the dead are 
therefore ambivalent, compounded of affection and fear, and this 
must be clearly recognized if we are to understand all the 
Andamanese beliefs and customs. We may compare the relation 
between the society of the living and the society of the dead to 
that between two hostile communities having occasional friendly 
relations. That the Andamanese themselves look upon it in 
some such way is shown by the belief that the ceremony by 
which a dead man is initiated into the world of spirits resembles i 
the peace-making ceremony. The dead man, up to the time of 
his death, has been living in a state of enmity with the spirits, 
and before he can enter their community and share their life he 

^ Page 216. 


I has to make peace with them in the same way that men make 
I peace with one another after they have been at war. 

This notion of hostility between the society and the world of 
spirits is found in other primitive societies, and seems everywhere 
to have a definite social function. The removal of a member of 
the community either by death or otherwise is a direct attack 
on the social solidarity and produces in primitive societies an 
emotional reaction of the same general character as anger. This 
collective anger, if freely expressed, serves as a compensating 
mechanism, satisfying and restoring the damaged sentiments 
But this can only happen if there is some object against which 
the anger can be directed. In the instance of homicide the social 
anger is directed against the person responsible for the death 
and against the social group to which he belongs. In the instance 
of death from sickness some other object has to be found, and 
amongst primitive peoples there are two chief ways in which this 
is done. An example of one method is afforded by the tribes of 
Australia, amongst whom there is a strong and constant hostility 
between neighbouring local groups, with a result that the anger 
at a death from sickness directs itself against some community 
with which the group of the dead man is at enmity and it is 
believed that some member of that community has caused the 
death by magic. The Andamans afford an example of the second 
method. Amongst them it would seem that the enmity between 
different local groups (except as concerns the Jqrawa in the 
South Andaman) was never very strong and the belief in evil 
magic was not highly developed, so that the anger at a death is 
directed against the spirits, and sometimes find expression in 
violent railings against them, accompanied by all the bodily 
manifestations of extreme rage and hatred. 

Now though the Andamanese regard the spirits with fear and 
hatred, and believe that all contact with them is dangerous for 
living men, yet they do not look on them as essentially evil, for 
that would conflict with their own feelings of attachment to their 
dead friends. 

1 The psychological function of individual anger is to restore to their normal 
condition the wounded self-regarding sentiments. The function of collective anger is 
similarly to restore the collective sentiments on which the solidarity of the society 


I gathered a few hints that they even beHeve that at times the 
spirits can and will help them. Thus a man will call on the sea- 
spirits of his own country to send plenty of turtle (over which 
the spirits seem to be assumed to have power) when he is going 
hunting. A very important fact in this connection is the different 
way in which a native regards the spirits of his own country and 
of other parts, the latter being thought to be much more danger- 
ous than the former because presumably they are the spirits not 
of relatives and friends but of strangers at the best or enemies at 
the worst. 

There is other evidence that the Andamanese do not regard 
the power that is possessed by the spirits as being essentially evil. 
This power, whereby the spirits are able to cause sickness, seems to 
be shared by the bones of dead men. Indeed the Andamanese call 
such bones "spirit-bones" {lau-tgi, cauga-ta). Now this power in 
the bones (though it may at times be supposed to cause sickness) 
is more commonly made use of in order to prevent or cure it. t 

The most conclusive evidence that the power of the spirits is| \ 
not intrinsically evil, but may be used to produce both good and I 1 
evil is afforded by the beliefs about medicine-men or dreamers J 1 
{oko-jumu). There are three ways in which a man can become a i / 
medicine-man. The first is (as the natives put it) by dying and 
coming back to life. Now when a man dies he becomes a spirit 
and therefore acquires the peculiar powers and qualities of a spirit, 
which he retains if he returns to life. Secondly, if a man straying 
in the jungle by himself be affronted- by the spirits, and if he 
show no fear (for if he is afraid they will kill him) they may keep 
him with them for a time and then let him go. Such a man, on 
his return, is regarded as being a medicine-man, and possessing 
all the powers of medicine-men. I was told of one man who 
became a medicine-man in this way within living memory, and 
it was stated that when he returned from the forest where he had 
been kept by the spirits for two or three days he was decorated 
with koro fibre. We have seen that this fibre is used by the spirits 
in the ceremony by which they initiate dead men, and its presence 
on the returned warrior was perhaps accepted by his friends as 
evidence that he had been initiated by the spirits. The third and 
last way in which a man may become a medicine-man is by having 


intercourse with the spirits in his dreams. This is a point to 
which it will be necessary to return later. For the present it is 
sufficient to note that in every instance the power of the medicine- 
man is believed to be derived from his contact with the spirits in 
one of the three possible ways. 

We are justified in concluding that the special power of the 
medicine-man, by which he is distinguished from his fellows, is 
simply the same power that is possessed by the spirits, from con- 
tact with whom he has obtained it. The medicine-man is believed 
to be able both to cause and to cure sickness, to arouse and to 
dispel storms. In other words he has power for both good and evil, 
and we must conclude that the spirits have the same. Moreover, 
it is commonly said that the medicine-man is able to produce 
the effects he does, whether they be harmful or beneficial to his 
fellows, by communicating with the spirits in dreams and en- 
listing their aid. This would seem to prove the point that I am 
here concerned with, that the power possessed by the spirits, 
though contact with it is always dangerous, may yet in certain 
circumstances be of benefit to the society, and is therefore not 
essentially evil in nature. 

The Andamanese believe that a medicine-man communicates 
with the spirits in sleep, and this is not the only evidence that 
they believe sleep to be a condition in which contact with the 
world of spirits is easier than in waking life. It is believed that 
sickness is more likely to begin during sleep than when awake. 
During the initiation ceremonies the initiate is required to abstain 
from sleep after eating pork or turtle, and this would seem to 
be because sleep is regarded as generally dangerous and there- 
fore to be avoided on such occasions as this when every precaution 
needs to be taken. 

The explanation of this belief seems to lie in the fact that 
sleep is a condition of diminished social activity, in which the 
individual is withdrawn from active social life, and is therefore 
also withdrawn from the protection of the society. After eating 
turtle the initiate is in urgent need of the protection of the society, 
which would be lost to him if he were permitted to sleep. After a 
death, when the corpse remains in the camp all night the people 
remain awake, and since there is no other common activity in 


which they can join, they sing, and thus protect themselves from 
the spirits that are present as the cause of the death. 

This explanation implies that all conditions of diminished 
social activity on the part of an individual are dangerous. One 
example of such a condition is sickness, in which the sick person 
is unable to pursue his ordinary occupations. Other examples 
are afforded by a mother, and to a certain extent a father during 
the period preceding and following the birth of a child, and by a 
woman during the menstrual period. All these, as various cus- 
toms show, are believed by the Andamanese to be conditions of 
danger in which it is necessary to take ritual or magical precau- 
tions. A better example for our purpose is that of an adolescent 
during the period covered by the initiation ceremonies, when, as 
we have seen, he is as it were cut off from the society, and there 
is abundant evidence that the Andamanese believe this to be a 
state of danger. Another example is the condition of a homicide 
during the period of his isolation. Lastly, we have seen that a 
mourner is cut off from the ordinary social life, and it may now be 
noted that the native explanation of the restrictions observed in 
that state is that if things were not done thus the mourner would 
be ill ; in other words the condition of mourning is one of danger, 
and the ritual referring to it is the means by which the danger 
(from the spirit world) is avoided. This explanation does not 
conflict with the one previously given but on the contrary we can 
now see that the notion that the mourner is in a position partly 
withdrawn from active participation in social life necessarily 
involves the belief that he is in a condition of danger. 

We may conclude that every condition in which the individual 
is withdrawn from full participation in active social life is regarded 
as dangerous for him, and that this is at least one of the reasons 
why sleep is so regarded. We have already noted that all con- 
ditions of danger tend to be thought of as due to contact with 
the spirits, and sleep is therefore supposed to be a state in which 
such contact is easier than in waking life. Now sleep is visited 
by dreams and it comes about that the dream-life, by reason of 
its contrast with waking-life, is seized upon by the Andamanese 
as a means by which the nature of the spirit world may be 
represented to the imagination. 


The Andaman Islander seems to regard the dream-world as 
a world of shadows or reflections, for he uses the same word to 
denote a shadow, a reflection in a mirror, and a dream (the stem 
-jumu in Aka-Jerti). Now when a man enters this shadow- world 
in sleep he is, as we have seen, conceived as coming into partial 
contact with the world of spirits. Hence the Andaman Islander 
believes that in dreams he may communicate with the spirits, 
that dreams may be a cause of sickness, and that in dreams a 
medicine-man can cause or cure sickness in his fellows. In this 
shadow-world the man himself becomes as it were a shadow, a 
mere reflection of himself; it is not he that lives and acts in his 
dreams but his ot-jinnulo, his double, his shadow-self, or, as we 
might say, his soul. It is but a step from this to the representa- 
tion of the spirit-world as a similar world of shadows and dream- 
shapes, and to the conclusion that when a man dies it is his 
ot-jumulo that becomes the spirit. 

To summarise the argument, the belief in the world of spirits 
rests on the actual fact that a dead person continues to affect 
the society. As the effect is one of disorganisation, whereby the 
social sentiments are wounded, the dead are avoided and the 
spirits are regarded with fear. But as a recently dead person is 
still regarded with feelings of attachment by his friends, the 
resulting final attitude towards the spirits is ambivalent. By 
a simple step the spirits come to be regarded as the cause of 
sickness and death, and therefore as hostile to living men. Yet, 
as the beliefs about medicine-men show, it is possible for excep- 
tional individuals to be on terms of friendship with the spirits. 
Finally, the dream-life affords a means by which the spirit-world 
may be represented in a simple and concrete manner. This last 
feature (the association of the spirits with dreams) I believe to be 
a secondary elaboration of the primary or fundamental belief 
which shows itself in the ritual of death and mourning, serving 
only to rationalise it and make it more concrete. This need of 
concrete representation of the spirit-world shows itself in other 
beliefs, in which may be seen the tendency to become self- 
contradictory that is often the mark of ideas that arise as the 
result of attempts to rationalise conative and affective impulses. 
The spirits are, on the one hand, as it were shadows or images 


of living men, and yet, since they are feared and disliked, they 
are often represented as being repulsive and inhuman, with long 
legs and short bodies, with long beards and ugly faces\ The 
spirits must be thought of as somewhere, but there is no con- 
sistency in the statements as to where that somewhere is ; one 
man will say that they live in the sky, another that they are 
under the earth, a third will point to a particular island as their 
home ; at the same time it is evident from other statements that 
they vaguely conceive them as being everywhere, in the forest and 
the sea. 

We are now in a position to understand what the Andaman 
Islander means when he says that the danger he fears from food 
^••"is from the spirits. The greatest evil that can happen to the 
community is the sickness or death of its members, and these 
are believed to be the work of the spirits. The sense of the social 
value of food takes the form of a belief that food is dangerous, 
and inevitably the danger comes to be conceived as that of sick- 
ness or death, and is therefore associated in their minds with the 

But there is a more fundamental reason than this. I have 
tried to show that it is because food has such important effects 
for good and evil on the social life that it is believed to be endued 
with a peculiar power which makes it necessary to approach it 
with ritual precautions. If this thesis be valid it should be capable 
of generalisation, and we should find the same power attributed 
to every object or being that is capable of affecting in important 
ways the well-being of the society. We should expect that the 
Andamanese would attribute this power not only to the more 
important things used for food but also to such things as the 
weather and dead men (i.e., the spirits). Now this, if the argument 
has been correct, is exactly what we do find, and we have here 
the reason why the Andaman Islander, when asked what he fears 
from eating dangerous foods, replies that he fears sickness or the 
spirits of the dead. r 

We may formulate in precise language the beliefs that underlie^ 
the ceremonial, remembering always that the Andaman Islanders 

■^ I once drew a few grotesque figures for the amusement of some Andamanese 
children, and they at once pronounced them to be "spirits." 

B. A. 20 


themselves are quite incapable of expressing these beliefs in words 
and are probably only vaguely conscious of them, (i) There is a 
power or force in all objects or beings that in any way affect the 
social life. (2) It is by virtue of this power that such things are 
able to aid or harm the society. (3) The power, no matter what 
may be the object or being in which it is present, is never either 
essentially good or essentially evil, but is able to produce both 
good and evil results. (4) Any contact with the power is dangerous, 
but the danger is avoided by ritual precautions. (5) The degree 
of power possessed by anything is directly proportioned to the 
importance of the effects that it has on the social life. (6) The 
power in one thing may be used to counteract the danger due to 
contact with the power in some other thing. 

We have studied this power in the animals and plants used 
for food and the things used as materials. It is this that makes 
turtle dangerous to eat and Anadendron fibre dangerous to pre- 
pare, and it is this also that makes animal bones or the leaves of 
Hibiscus available for protection. We have now seen that the 
same power is present in dead men, in their bodies, their bones, 
and in the spirit-world to which dead men go. All contact with 
the world of the dead is highly dangerous, and yet we have seen 
that human bones may be used for protection and that even the 
spirits may be induced to heal sickness or allay storms. We have 
also seen that the same power is present in the oko-jmnu^ and we 
have made the important discovery that it is through contact 
with the spirits that he acquires the power. This reveals another 
important principle. (7) If an individual comes into contact with 
the power in any thing and successfully avoids the danger of such 
contact, he becomes himself endowed with power of the same 
kind as that with which he is in contact. Now although the oko- 
jmnu possesses a very special social value, yet every man and 
woman has some social value, some of that power which makes 
any being capable of affecting the society for good or ill, and we 
can now see that the initiation ceremonies are the means by 
which the individual is endowed with power (or, as the natives 
say, made strong) by being brought into contact with the special 
power present in each of the important kinds of food. The initia- 
tion of the ordinary man or woman is parallel to the initiation 


of the oko-jumu save that in one instance it is the power in foods 
and in the other that in the spirits with which the initiation is 

It has been held in this chapter that the society or the social . . 
life itself is the chief source of protection against danger for the | / 1/ 
individual. If this be so then the society itself possesses this i 
same power with which we are dealing, and we must expect to v 
find that contact with this power is also dangerous for the indi- 
vidual. Now the occasion on which the individual comes into \ 
contact with the power in the society is in the dance, and I found I 
evidence that the natives believe that dancing is dangerous in 
exactly the same way as eating food. Confirmation of this will ^' ' "' 
appear later. """""^ 

It would seem that for the Andaman Islander the social life ' 
is a process of complex interaction of powers or forces present 
in the society itself, in each individual, in animals and plants and 
the phenomena of nature, and in the world of spirits, and on 
these powers the well-being of the society and its members 
depends. By the action of the principle of opposition the society 
— the world of the living — comes to be opposed to the spirits — 
the world of the dead. The society itself is the chief source of 
protection to the individual ; the spirits are the chief source of 
danger. Hence all protection tends to be referred to the society 
and all danger to the spirits. In the initiation ceremonies it is 
the society that protects the initiate against the dangers of food, 
and those dangers are referred, generally if not quite consistently, 
to the spirits, with which at first sight they would seem to have 
nothing to do. 

It is now at last possible to understand the uses of the word 
ot-kimil which were first discussed on page 267 above. When the 
word is used in reference to a person who has just partaken of 
food it denotes a condition of danger produced by contact with 
the power in foods. This condition results at any time from the 
eating of any of the more important foods, but is clearly produced 
in an extreme form when a food such as turtle or pork is being 
eaten for the first time at a ceremony of initiation. Hence the 
initiate is most intensely kimil and is therefore addressed and 
spoken of by that term, or as we might say " the kimil person," 

20 — 2 


Used in reference to sickness the word denotes a condition 
of danger due to contact with that power (in the spirits or in 
food) which is the cause of sickness. Used in reference to storms 
it again denotes a condition of danger for the society. Storms 
are sometimes said to be caused by the spirits ^ This is also the 
explanation of the use of the word to denote a particular season 
of the year. The Kimil season is by no means hot, but cool; it is, 
however, the season at which violent cyclones are most likely to 
occur, being the period of the change from the south-west to the 
north-east monsoon. It is therefore a season of danger to the 
society from that power which produces storms. 

Finally, a man who has joined in a dance is said to be ot-kimil 
and seems to be regarded as being in a condition of danger 
similar to that produced by food. It might be thought that in 
this instance the word is only used in its literal meaning of "hot,'^ 
but I believe that this is not so. The dance is the occasion on 
which the individual comes most closely into contact with the 
power in the society itself, and I believe that this contact is 
regarded as dangerous and therefore as making the individual 

Thus we see that in its various uses the word ot-kimil denotes 
a condition of danger due to contact with that power on the 
interaction of the different manifestations of which the well-being 
of the society depends. 

How is it then that to denote this condition the Andamanese 
use a word which, primarily, seems to mean " heat " ? The answer 
is that they conceive the qualities that ^\v& to objects their social 
values as being the manifestations of a kind of energy, and as 
being similar to the kind of energy which they know best, that 
of heat. The psychological basis of this is not difficult to discover. 
The eating of food is productive of bodily heat (the Andamanese 
live in a hot climate and eat much fat, it must be remembered), 
so that the power present in foods is inevitably thought of as 
a sort of heat or heat-producing energy. In the dance the 
Andaman Islander experiences, as we have seen, an increase in 
his own personal force or energy, and this also is associated with 

^ The Andamanese beliefs about storms and the weather generally will be dealt 
with in the next chapter. 


the sensation of bodily heat produced by dancing. All other 
bodily activities result in the sensation of heat (in hunting and 
work of all kinds) and as it is in his activities that the social 
value of the individual is manifested this value is itself conceived 
as a sort of heat-producing energy. Further the Andamanese 
seem to associate with the idea of heat all conditions of mental 
activity and excitement. We ourselves do the same, as shown 
by such words as " ardour," " zeal," etc. and such phrases as " the 
heat of anger, or enthusiasm," and there is good ground for think- 
ing that all such associations or symbolisms (sensory metaphors) 
have a physiological basis. Finally, fire which (as we shall see 
better in the next chapter) is regarded by the Andamanese as 
the most important possession of the society, and which (as we 
have already seen) has in a very high degree the power that 
makes objects capable of affecting the society, is for this reason 
in a suitable position to become the archetype of all forms of 
energy, activity or force. This system of notions of the Anda- 
manese that the world is the arena of a continual struggle of 
forces present in the society itself, in each individual, in the 
substances that are used for foods and materials, in fire, in storms 
and sunshine, and in the spirits and bones of the dead, is, as 
I have tried to show, the result not of any process of reasoning 
but of the immediate social experience, and as it is in the heat 
of his own body, and in states of excitement of his own mind, 
that the individual does actually experience the effects of these 
forces upon himself he uses the same word to denote all con- 
ditions of heat and all conditions of the manifestation of this 
energy, organising around that word as well as he can his some- 
what vague conceptions. 

In case this symbolism should still seem strange, and the 
explanation of it unsatisfactory, it is as well to show by means 
of a couple of quotations that in other primitive societies differ- 
ing widely from the Andamanese similar uses of the words hot 
and heat are to be found. In his work on the Achehnese (Vol. I, 
p. 305) C. Snouck Hurgronje writes thus of the natives of the 
Malay Archipelago : " In the native language of the E. Archi- 
pelago all happiness, rest and well-being are united under the 
concept of ' coolness,' while the words ' hot ' and * heat ' typify 


all the powers of evil. Thus when a person has either just endured 
the attack of a ' hot ' influence or has luckily contrived to escape 
it, the adat prescribes methods of ' cooling ' in order to confirm 
him in the well-being which he has recovered or escaped losing. 
The same methods are also adopted for charming away evil 
things and baneful influences, the removal of which is regarded 
as an imperative necessity. For instance, the completion of a 
house, and various domestic festivities, are made the occasion for 
a process of ' cooling ' ; so also with a ship when newly built or 
after holding of a kanduri on board ; and before the padi is 
planted out the ground must be purified from ' hot ' or dangerous 
influences." In this instance we find the word " hot " used only in 
reference to evil forces. In the Andamans there is no line drawn 
between good and evil forces. In spite of the differences between 
them it is clear that the same mental process is responsible for 
the symbolic use of the word " hot " in the Andamans and in the 
Malay Archipelago. 

In Codrington's The Melanesians, p. 191, we find an example 
of the same mode of thought. " That invisible power which is 
believed by the natives to cause all such effects as transcend 
their conception of the regular course of nature and to reside in 
spiritual beings, whether in the spiritual part of living men or in 
the ghosts of the dead, being imparted by them to their names 
and to various things that belong to them, such as stones, snakes, 
and indeed objects of all sorts, is that generally known as mana. 
By means of this men are able to control or direct the forces of 
nature, to make rain or sunshine, wind or calm, to cause sickness 
or remove it, to know what is far off in time and space, to bring 
good luck or prosperity or to blast and curse. In the New 
Hebrides, the Banks' Islands, the Solomon Islands about Florida 
as in New Zealand and many of the Pacific Islands the word in 
use is mana. In Santa Cruz a different word malete is used, 
which bears however the same meaning. At Saa in Malanta all 
persons and things in which this supernatural power resides are 
said to be saka, that is, hot. Ghosts that are powerful are saka ; 
a man who has knowledge of the things which have spiritual 
power is himself saka; one who knows a charm which is saka 
mutters it over water, saru'e and makes the water ' hot,' ha'asaka. 


The people of Mala Masiki, the lesser part of the island, which 
is cut in two not far from its south-eastern end by a narrow 
channel, think that the men of the larger part. Mala Paina, are 
very saka. If one of these visiting the Saa people points with his 
finger, suisui, there is danger of death or calamity ; if one of them 
spits on a man he dies at once." Here again there are important 
differences, as might be expected in such different cultures as 
those of Melanesia and the Andamans, and yet it is clear that 
there is a fundamental similarity of mental process. 

The nature of this symbolic representation of the forces that 
affect the social life may be made clear by considering another 
example. The natives say that they use odu clay after eating 
because their bodies give off an odour which would attract the 
spirits if they did not paint themselves. The power of an object, 
by virtue of which it has what may be called magical efficacy, is 
sometimes identified with its odour. A number of the plants that 
are used as remedies for sickness, such as the Trigonostemon, are 
possessed of strong and characteristic odours, and the natives 
think that it is through the odour that they effect a cure. 
Similarly the powerful properties attributed to the Anadendron, 
whereby it will cause rheumatism, keep away sharks and spirits, 
and turn turtle-meat bad, or stop a storm, are all said to be the 
results of its " smell." The stimulating power of olfactory sensa- 
tions probably has much to do with the development of these 
beliefs, but the discussion of their psycho-physiological basis 
would lead us too far away from the main subject, interesting as 
it would be. 

In the jungles of the Andamans it is possible to recognize a 
distinct succession of odours during a considerable part of the 
year as one after another the commoner trees and lianas come 
into flower. When, for example, the species of Sterculia called 
in the North Andaman jeru comes into blossom, it is almost 
impossible to get away from the smell of it except on the sea- 
shore when the wind is from the sea. Moreover these various 
flowers give their scent to the honey that is made from them, so 
that there is also a succession of differently flavoured kinds of 
honey. The Andamanese have therefore adopted an original 
method of marking the different periods of the year by means of 


the dififerent odoriferous flowers that are in bloom at different 
times. Their calendar is a calendar of scents^ 

Now they seem to regard each flower-period as possessing its 
own particular kind of force, of which the scent is the manifest 
sign, and to think that the succession of these different forces 
produces the succession of different fruits, the whole generative 
energy of nature being conceived as the result not of one force 
but of many, following one another in regular rotation. When a 
girl reaches puberty the natives think of her as having blossomed 
as it were, the later ripening being the birth of her children, and 
so she, like the plants of the jungle, is under the influence of 
the same natural forces that produce the successive blossoming 
and fruiting of the different species. Therefore, when a girl 
reaches her blossoming time she is given, for a name, to be used 
until she bears her fruit, the name of that particular odoriferous 
plant that is in flower at the time, it being this particular one of 
the successive forces of the forest life that has brought her child- 
hood to an end. 

Under the influence of muscular exertion the human body 
gives off a characteristic odour, of one generic kind, but differing 
somewhat in every individual. The odour of the body, being the 
immediate result of activity, may therefore well be regarded by 
the Andamanese as being closely connected with the virtue or 
energy of the person. Further, the eating of certain foods, such 
as dugong, turtle and pork, causes the body of the Andaman 
Islander to give out a noticeable and recognizable odour, different 
from that of mere perspiration. The natives themselves seem to 
distinguish different odours for these different foods, but I was 
not myself able to appreciate such differences. The Andamanese 
see in this odour given off after eating a manifestation of the 
energy that has been absorbed with the food, which energy it is 
that makes the food both necessary for life and also a source of 
danger. This seems to be the meaning of the belief that the spirits 
are attracted to a man by the odour of the food he has eaten 
unless he paint himself with clay. 

We can now at last return to the rite of painting the body 
with odu clay after eating. I have suggested that the use of this 

^ See above, p. 119. 


clay in mourning is a means by which the mourner marks the fact 
that he is in a peculiar relation to the spirit-world, spirits being 
believed to be light in colour. The mourner is in contact with 
the spirit-world through his connection with the dead person, 
and to mark his condition he paints himself to resemble the 
spirits, thereby affirming his solidarity with them. The clay 
protects him from the danger that results from any contact with 
the spirit-world. According to the rule of method laid down at 
the beginning of the chapter we must find a sirhilar explanation 
of the use of odu after eating. 

We have seen that it is the same kind of force in the spirits 
and in the animals used for food that makes them both dangerous. 
Yet at the same time there is a sense in which it is true that 
each kind of thing has its own peculiar kind of force. The 
ceremony of turtle-eating endows a youth with power to avoid 
the dangers of turtle but it does not give him the power to 
avoid the dangers of pork. Hibiscus leaves are efficacious against 
turtle, but against the pig Tetranthera leaves must be used. 
In describing the patterns painted on the body after eating it 
was stated that there is a tendency to connect particular types 
of pattern with particular kinds of food. Thus a design commonly 
used after eating turtle suggests the plates of the turtle's carapace, 
and a patterri used after eating pork similarly suggests the longi- 
tudinal markings on the pig's back. This would seem to in- 
dicate that when a man has eaten turtle he paints himself so as 
to identify himself with the animal he has eaten, and similarly 
with other foods, just as in mourning he paints himself so as 
to identify himself with the spirit-world. In other words, the 
painting of the body with odu serves to show that there is a 
relation between the individual and some source of power, which 
relation can best be described as one of solidarity with the 
species, whether of animals or supernatural beings, in which the 
power resides. The mourner is in contact with the dangerous 
powers of the world of death, and by expressing his solidarity 
with that world he avoids the dangers that might result from his 
condition. For the fear of any being and a feeling of solidarity 
towards that being are incompatible with one another. Similarly 
a man who has eaten turtle is in contact with the power that 


resides in the turtle species, a power that may be dangerous, but 
which when mastered and made use of by proper precautions is 
a source of well-being, of strength. By painting himself with a 
pattern that reminds him in some way of the turtle he expresses 
his solidarity with the turtle species and so obviates the dangers 
of his condition. 

This interpretation is made more probable by the considera- 
tion of the dances of the initiation ceremonies. In the dance at 
the turtle-eating ceremony the movements of the dancers suggest 
the movements of a turtle swimming. If the resemblance be not 
imaginary we may regard this as another method of affirming 
the solidarity of the dancers with the turtle species. We should 
then have to conclude that the dance at the pig-eating ceremony 
is similarly imitative of the movements of a pig, and though this 
is quite possible it is not so obvious. 

This same kind of clay is used in the initiation ceremonies. 
At the turtle-eating and pig-eating ceremonies it is spattered 
over the body of the initiate from head to foot. I have no 
explanation to offer for this peculiar method of application. 
After the ceremony is over the initiate is painted with clay in a 
pattern called kimil-f era-puli which consists of a background of 
the clay on which a pattern of separate spirals is made with the 
finger. The pattern is to be seen in Plate XI. I cannot put 
forward with any confidence the explanation I have to offer of 
this pattern, for I have no means of confirming it, and it is there- 
fore little more than a guess. It is that the spiral or circle is a 
symbol of the camp and therefore of the society and the social 
life in general, the basis of the symbolism being the roughly 
circular or elliptical form of the village or communal hut, and 
the circular form of the dance (more noticeable in the Little 
Andaman than in the Great Andaman). If this be really the 
meaning of the symbol then the explanation of its use in the 
initiation ceremonies would be that in these ceremonies the youth 
is preserved from danger by the force inherent in the society, 
which affords protection to all its members, and the use of the 
symbol of the society would therefore be most appropriate. 

The act of painting the body with odii clay is therefore a 
rite which advertises the fact that an individual is in intimate 


contact with some source of that power which belongs to the 
things that affect the social life, and it thereby serves to keep 
alive the sentiments associated with that notion of power. The 
painting after eating reminds the individual of his dependence 
upon and obligation towards the society, and, since all join in 
the rite, it serves also to maintain the unity of the community. 

We may now return to the question of the meaning of per- 
sonal ornament in general. It is a commonplace of psychology 
that the development of the sense of self is closely connected 
with the perception of one's own body. It is also generally 
recognized that the development of the moral and social senti- 
ments in man is dependent upon the development of self- 
consciousness, of the sense of self These two important principles 
will help us to appreciate the hypothesis to which the discussion 
has now led, that in the Andamans the customary regulation of 
personal ornament is a means by which the society acts upon, 
modifies, and regulates the sense of self in the individual. 

There are three methods of ornamenting the body in the 
Andamans, (i) by scarification, (2) by painting, and (3) by the 
putting on of ornaments. 

The natives give two reasons for the custom of scarification, 
that it improves the personal appearance and that it makes the 
boy or girl grow up strong. Both these mean that scarification 
gives or marks an added value. The explanation of the rite 
would therefore seem to be that it marks the passage from child- 
hood to manhood and is a means by which the society bestows 
upon the individual that power, or social value, which is possessed 
by the adult but not by the child. The individual is made to 
feel that his value — his strength and the qualities of which he 
may be proud — is not his by nature but is received by him 
from the society to which he is admitted. The scars on his body 
are the visible marks of his admission. The individual is proud 
or vain of the scars which are the mark of his manhood, and 
thus the society makes use of the very powerful sentiment of 
personal vanity to strengthen the social sentiments. 

Turning now to the painting of the body, we have seen that 
the pattern of white clay serves to make both the painted in- 
dividual and those who see him feel his social value, and we 


have seen that this interpretation explains the occasions on 
which such painting is used. To complete the argument it is 
necessary to consider the occasions on which the use of white 
clay is forbidden. 

Those to whom this prohibition applies are (i) a youth or 
girl who is aka-op^ i.e., who is abstaining from certain foods 
during the initiation period, (2) a mourner, (3) a homicide during 
the period of isolation, and (4) a person who is ill. All these 
persons are excluded from full participation in the active social 
life, and therefore the social value of each of them is diminished. 
It would obviously be wrong for a person in such a condition to 
express by decorating himself a social value that he did not at 
the time possess. 

The occasions on which this style of painting is used or for- 
bidden are thus all satisfactorily explained by our hypothesis. 
It remains to consider the nature of the painting itself, and how 
far it is an appropriate means of expression. To do this we 
must discuss very briefly some of the processes of symbolic 
thought of the Andamanese. Conditions of well-being (both 
individual and social) are associated in the minds of the Anda- 
manese with fine weather, both directly (through physiological 
action) and indirectly (through the effect of fine weather on the 
social life). Hence To7no, who, as we shall see in the next 
chapter, is a personification of fine weather, is a being who is 
connected with goodness and happiness. With fine weather, and 
therefore with individual and social well-being, the Andamanese 
associate brightness and whiteness (for which they have only 
one word) and any bright or light colour. The association of 
light and dark with euphoric and dysphoric conditions respec- 
tively has a psycho-physical basis, for it seems to be universal 
in human nature. Now the clay that the Andamanese call tol- 
odu is the whitest substance they know, and is for this reason 
fitted to be symbolical of conditions of well-being. Fine weather 
is associated, in the minds of the Andamanese with honey, be- 
cause in the season of fine weather honey is plentiful, and is also 
associated for a similar reason with snakes. Sweetness itself is 
universally associated with pleasant things, again through a 
psycho-physical link. The Andamanese believe in a special con- 


nection between honey and a species of large snake called wara- 
jobo or or-cubi^, so that this snake comes to be representative of 
fine weather and sweetness and therefore generally of states of 
well-being. Now, throughout the Great Andaman the pattern 
in which white clay is painted on the body is called after this 
snake, and the zig-zags of which the pattern is composed may 
be supposed to be representative of the snake itself When, 
therefore, a man paints himself with white clay in a pattern 
which he regards as representing the snake wara-jobo, it is 
evident that the painting is meant to express a condition of 
well-being, with which the snake itself, and whiteness, are, by a 
number of links, closely associated. This is not all, however. 
The Andamanese, we may not doubt, derive from the painted 
pattern an esthetic pleasure due to its rhythmical character, its 
shape as an arrangement of lines and spaces. Further it provides 
the pleasure that we obtain from a thing elegantly and skilfully 
made, and this explains why so much care is taken in the making 
of the pattern. This pleasure at what we may call the beauty 
of the pattern heightens the effect produced by its symbolic 
references. The real value of the pattern, its pleasure-giving 
quality, is transferred to the man on whose body it is executed. 
He himself is pleased with it, proud of it, and so becomes pleased 
with and proud of himself, for the pattern by being imprinted 
on his body becomes part of him. The sense of self attaches to 
it, as with us the sense of self attaches to our clothes. 

It would be interesting to carry the analysis of the mental 
processes involved in all this a stage or two further, but enough 
has been said, I hope, to show that the nature of the painting 
with clay is appropriate to its use as marking or expressing 

Patterns are sometimes painted with this same white clay on 
the face alone, such patterns being built up either of the zig- 
zags of the snake pattern, or of rhythmically arranged series of 
short lines. The use of such paintings is regulated by a sort of 
etiquette. By so having his face decorated a man expresses that 
he is pleased with himself, and obviously there are occasions on 
which it is appropriate and others on which it is inappropriate 

^ See p. 227. 


that he should feel thus, A man who has been successful in the 
day's hunting, for example, is quite justified in having his face 
ornamented in this way, and it is on such occasions as this that 
the custom is observed. 

When a man is painted for a dance, or on any other 
ceremonial occasion, with white clay, he is also painted at the 
same time with red paint. In these instances we must suppose 
that the red paint serves the same purpose as the pattern of 
white clay with which it is combined, namely to make the 
decorated person pleasantly aware of his or her social value. 
Red paint is also used, however, in sickness, and on other 
occasions, as affording protection against evil, particularly evil 
from the spirit-world. 

This double use of red paint is to be explained by reference 
to the colour symbolism of the Andaman Islanders, For them 
the colour red is pre-eminently the colour of blood and of fire. 
There is ample evidence of this which it is perhaps not necessary 
to state. Now blood is identified with the warmth of the body 
and with life ; the blood and the fat are sometimes spoken of as 
the two vital principles. Fire, as I have already shown, is taken 
as a symbol of activity and of mental excitement. Thus the 
colour comes to be associated in the minds of the Andamanese 
with all euphoric conditions, with excitement, vitality, mental 
and bodily activity, and with energy or force in general. It is 
possible that this symbolism, which seems to be much the same 
in all divisions of mankind, has a psycho-physical basis in the 
stimulating dynamogenic power of sensations of redness. 

When a person is sick he is in need of vitality, of energy, and 
so his body is daubed with the red paint that is a symbol of the 
things that he needs, and by a simple mental process he comes 
to believe that by applying the paint to his body he increases 
his energy and vitality, and so helps himself to get rid of the 
sickness. At a dance, or on other ceremonial occasions, it is 
required that the individual shall have a sense of his own value, 
and for this he must experience that sense of personal force and 
vitality that is produced, as we have seen, by the action of the 
dance. This effect is reinforced by the use of the red paint which 
is the symbol of that condition of energy and vitality that it is 


(for some special reason) necessary for him to feel. As the value 
of the individual depends upon his strength or force, the red 
paint is thus a suitable means of expressing the value of him on 
virhose body it is painted, and really expresses, though by different 
means, exactly the same thing as the pattern of white clay with 
which it is combined. 

We are now in a position to understand the use of white clay 
and red paint in the purification of a homicide. This takes place 
at the end of a period of isolation, during which the man is 
entirely cut off from the social life, and lives in a condition of 
supposed extreme danger on account of the blood that he has 
shed. During this time he may not use his hands to touch food, 
and at the end his hands are purified by the application to them 
of red paint and white clay. It is clearly because these two sub- 
stances are both of them in different ways symbols of conditions 
of well-being that magical virtue is ascribed to their use in this 
instance. It is perhaps worth while to recall that both red ochre 
and white clay are sometimes given internally as remedies against 

For the sake of the argument it has been necessary to separate 
the two motives underlying the use of personal ornament, the 
desire for protection and the desire for display. But we now see 
that these two motives are very intimately related and are really 
both involved in every kind of ornament. All ornament in some 
way marks the relation of the individual to the society and to 
that force or power in the society to which he owes his well-being 
and happiness. When painting or ornament is used to give pro- 
tection, it is, as we have seen, the protective power of the society 
itself that is appealed to, and what is expressed is the dependence 
of the individual on the society. When ornament or paint is used 
for display it is again the dependence on the society that is ex- 
pressed, though in a different way and on occasions of a different 
kind. We have seen that scarification is also a means of marking 
the dependence of the individual on the society, and it is very 
important to note that the Andamanese sometimes explain it as 
due to the desire for display and sometime? to the need of pro- 
tection (enabling the child to grow strong and so avoid the 
dangers of sickness), showing very clearly that there is some 


intimate connection between these two motives, or at any rate 
that one and the same method of ornamentation can satisfy both. 
There is the further example of red paint, which is combined 
with the pattern of white clay for purposes of display, and is also 
constantly used in many ways as affording protection. 

We are thus brought to the final conclusion that the scarifica- 
tion and painting of the body and the wearing of most if not all 
of the customary ornaments are rites which have the function of 
marking the fact that the individual is in a particular permanent 
or temporary relation to that power in the society and in all 
things that affect the social life, the notion of which we have 
seen to underlie so much of the Andaman ceremonial. 

The scarification of a boy or girl leaves permanent marks of 
the permanent relation between the adult and the society. By 
means of it and the initiation ceremonies that follow or accom- 
pany it, and of which it may really be considered to be a part, 
the society gives the individual his social value, of which the 
scars remain as a visible sign for him to be proud of, and at the 
same time endows him with the power to avoid the dangers with 
which his life is beset. 

The paintings of clay after food mark the temporary relation 
between the individual and the power present in the food he 
has eaten. It is chiefly thought of by the natives themselves as 
protective, as we have seen, but it also gives an opportunity for 
the exercise of personal vanity, for much care is taken in the 
designing and execution of the pattern, which therefore affords 
the painted individual much the same sort of satisfaction as the 
snake pattern of white clay. It calls his attention to his own 
appearance, and makes him feel pleased or satisfied with himself, 
conscious of his own personal value. A condition of unity and 
harmony is produced in the community by a feast as well as by 
a dance, and in each instance that harmony is expressed by the 
painting of every member with the same material in a similar 
design. The relation of the individual to the society is made 
visible on his body. By means of the paintings after food the 
society not only protects itself from danger but also rejoices in 
the well-being that is produced by a supply of relished food. 
Inversely it can now also be shown that the painting of white 


clay and red paint worn at a dance and after marriage and 
initiation is not only a means of display but is also protective. 
Both red paint and white clay are used to give protection in 
sickness, and they are similarly used in the purification of the 
hands of a homicide. Moreover we have seen, in reference to the 
word ot-kimil, that the dance is a condition of danger by reason 
of the contact it involves between the individual and the power 
of the society. The few days following an initiation ceremony 
are definitely believed to be a period of danger for the initiate, 
and during this time the pattern of white clay and red paint 
must not be washed off but must be allowed to wear off. By the 
time the last traces of the pattern have disappeared the danger 
is considered to be over. There is evidence that the first few days 
of marriage are regarded as a period of danger. It would seem 
that the natives do attribute to the painting with white clay and 
red paint some power of protection, but this is hidden under the 
importance of such painting as a means of display. 

Of the various ornaments that are worn on the body some 
would seem to be worn almost solely for purposes of display, 
because they are pleasing to the eye. Such are the necklaces 
and other ornaments of small shells. It would seem that the 
same motive is also responsible for the use of the yellow skin of 
the Dendrobium of which the Andamanese are so fond. The 
ornaments of netting and shell seem to be worn primarily for 
display, but it is quite possible that some protective power is 
attributed to them, as to the paintings of white clay with which 
they are regularly worn. The belts of Pandanus leaf that are 
worn by women are a mark of the sex, and the style of belt worn 
differs with the social status of the woman. They thus serve to 
exhibit the special social value of the woman in so far as it 
depends upon her sex and her social status, but I believe that 
the Andamanese attribute to the belt and to the apron of leaves 
worn with it a power of protection against the special dangers 
to which women are believed to be subject. Ths is suggested 
by the use of the Pandanus leaf in the ceremony at a girl's first 
menstruation \ I failed to discover any special ideas connected 

1 I am unfortunately obliged to leave a big gap in this chapter and in the book, 
owing to my inability to discuss the Andamanese notions about sex. The natives of 
B.A. 21 


with the ornaments of Pandanus leaf that are sometimes worn 
by both men and women at dances. The ornaments that are 
worn primarily for their protective power are those made of 
human and animal bones and those of pieces of canes or of 
fibres of Hibiscus or Ficus. These are always made decorative 
by the addition of shells and yellow Dendrobiuin skin, and there- 
fore besides their primary function also serve as means of display. 
It is clear then that in the various methods of ornamenting 
the body the two chief motives that we have considered are so 
combined that they can hardly be estimated separately, and it 
is this mingling of motives that has led us to the final under- 
standing of the meaning and social function of bodily ornament. 
Each of the different kinds of ornament serves to make manifest 
the existence of some special relation between the individual and 
the society, and therefore of some special relation between him 
and that system of powers on which the welfare of the society 
and of the individual depends. One of the most important 
aspects of the relation of the individual to the society is his 
dependence upon it for his safety and well-being and this is 
revealed in all painting and ornament worn for protection. But 
the society not only protects the individual from danger ; it is 
the direct source of his well-being ; and this makes itself felt in 
the customary regulation by which the use of the more important 
ornaments used for display is confined to occasions on which it is 
quite clear that his happiness is directly due to the society, such 
as a dance or feast. Thus the customs relating to the ornamenta- 
tion of the body are of the kind that I have here called cere- 
monial. They are means by which the society exercises on 

the Great Andaman at the present time show an unusual prudery in their conversation 
and dealings with white men, but there is good reason to suspect that this is due to 
the influence of officers who have been in charge of the Andaman Home in former 
years. At the present time all the men except a few of the oldest in remote parts are 
very careful never to appear before a white man without some covering although formerly 
they wore nothing. In their conversation in the presence of a white man they are 
careful to avoid reference to sexual matters. The men of the Little Andaman who 
have not come under the influence of the Andamanese Homes, still go naked and 
unashamed, and indulge in obscene gestures and jokes. At the time I was in the 
Andamans I failed to realise the very great importance of a thorough knowledge of 
the notions of a primitive people on matters of sex in any attempt to understand their 
customs, and therefore failed to make the necessary enquiries. 


appropriate occasions some of the important social sentiments, 
thereby maintaining them at the necessary degree of energy 
required to maintain the social cohesion. 

To complete the discussion of ornament in general it is 
necessary to refer very briefly to the ornamentation of objects 
such as bows, canoes and baskets. Such ornamentation consists 
of (i) incised patterns (on bows, etc.), which may be compared 
with the scarification of the body, (2) painting with red paint 
and white clay (bows, canoes, skulls, etc.), or with prepared wax 
(Nautilus shell cups, etc.), (3) patterns made with the yellow 
skin of the Dendrobiiim (baskets, etc.), and (4) shells attached 
by thread (baskets, baby-sling, etc.). The important point to 
note is that the decoration applied to utensils is of the same 
character throughout as that which, when applied to the body, 
has been shown to be an expression of the social value of the 
person. Thus the pattern painted on a canoe with white clay 
and red paint is the same as that on the body of a dancer. It 
would seem, therefore, that the ornamentation of utensils is a 
means of expressing or marking the social value of the decorated 
object, and it might even be held that the application of orna- 
ment to utensils is really a matter of ceremonial. Just as a newly 
married man is painted with the snake pattern which wears off 
and is not renewed, so a new canoe or a new South Andaman 
bow is painted with the same pattern as soon as it is finished, 
and after this pattern wears off it is not renewed. It is the act 
of bringing a new canoe or bow into use that is the occasion of 
the ceremonial expression of its value, if we may so regard the 
painting. A new relation is established between the society and 
an object, which thereby acquires a special social value, just as 
a youth acquires a special new social value at the conclusion of 
one of the initiation ceremonies. This example is sufficient to 
show that at least there is nothing in the ornamentation of 
utensils that conflicts with the explanation of bodily ornament 
given in this chapter \ 

^ In order to carry the analysis further it would be necessary to consider in detail 
the whole question of the relation of art and ceremonial, and that of the social function 
of art which is involved in it, and also to deal with the notion of " value" as it appears 
in primitive societies. The material from the Andaman Islands is not suitable for the 
discussion of these problems. 

21 — 2 



It is time to bring the argument to a conclusion. It should 
now, I hope, be evident that the ceremonial customs of the 
Andaman Islands form a closely connected system, and that we 
cannot understand their meaning if we only consider each one by 
itself, but must study the whole system to arrive at an interpreta- 
tion. This in itself I regard as a most important conclusion, for 
it justifies the contention that we must substitute for the old 
method of dealing with the customs of primitive people, — the 
comparative method by which isolated customs from different 
social types were brought together and conclusions drawn from 
their similarity, — a new method by which all the institutions of 
one society or social type are studied together so as to exhibit 
their intimate relations as parts of an organic system. ^^^,_^ 

I have tried to show that the ceremonial customs are the / 
means by which the society acts upon its individual members | 
and keeps alive in their minds a certain system of sentiments. ^ 
Without the ceremonial those sentiments would not exist, and-l 
without them the social organisation in its actual form could not 
exist. There is great difficulty, however, in finding a suitable 
method of describing these sentiments. In attempting to put 
into precise words the vague feelings of the Andaman Islander 
there is always the danger that we may attribute to him con- 
ceptions that he does not possess. For he is not himself capable 
of thinking about his own sentiments. 

In the attempt to exhibit the meaning of the ceremonial 
I have shown that it implies a complex system of beliefs about 
what I have called power, and have stated those beliefs in more 
or less precise terms. But the Andaman Islander is of course 
quite incapable of making similar statements or even of under- 
standing them. In his consciousness appear only the very vaguest 
conceptions, such as those associated with the word kiniil or with 
odours. We, in order to understand his customs must substitute 
for such vague notions others capable of precise statement, must 
formulate in words the beliefs that are revealed in his actions, 
but we must be careful not to fall into the error of attributing to 
him the conceptions by which we make clear to ourselves his 
indefinite sentiments and notions and the ceremonies in which 
they are expressed. 


) /- 
With this quaHfication, then, the ceremonial of the Andaman 

Islands may be said to involve the assumption of a power of 

a peculiar kind, and we have been able to formulate certain 1 

principles which, although the native is quite incapable of stating i 

them as principles, are revealed in the ceremonial. This power, j 

though in itself neither good nor evil, is the source of all good 

and all evil in human life. It is present in the society itself and 

in everything that can affect in important ways the social life. 

All occasions of special contact with it are dangerous, i.e., are 

subject to ritual precautions. 

It should already, from the course of the argument, be plain ^^ 
that this power or force, the interaction of whose different mani- / 
festations constitutes the process of social life, is not imaginary, 7 
is not even something the existence of which is surmised as the v 
result of intellectual processes, but is real, an object of actual ,. 
experience. It is, in a few words, the moral power of the society 
acting upon the individual directly or indirectly and felt by him 
in innumerable ways throughout the whole course of his life\ 

One of the most important ways in which the individual ^ 
experiences the moral force of the society of which he is a 
member is through the feeling of moral obligation, which gives j 
him the experience of a power compelling him to sjihordinate ;' 
his egoistic desires to the demands of socia l custom^ The in- 1 
dividual feels this force acting upon him both from outside and 
from inside himself. For he recognizes that it is the sqcietyjwith 
its traditions and customs that constrains him through the force 
of public opinion, and yet the conHlcr^etween customary duty 
and selfish inclination takes place in his own min3~anHnsex- 
perienced as the clash oT'aiilpgorTistkriTTefffairibrces. The moral T 
sense within impels towards the sahie-^nd-as the social opinion j 
without. ' 

This force of moral obligation is felt not only in relation 
to right and wrong conduct towards other persons, but is also 
felt in all ritual, whether negative or positive. 

1 The exposition of this important thesis can only be given here in the most 
abbreviated form. The thesis itself, as applied to primitive ritual in general, owes its 
origin to Professor Emile Durkheim, and has been expounded by him (more particu- 
larly in his work Les Formes ilimentaires de la Vie religieuse) and by Messieurs H. 
Hubert and M. Mauss. 


The moral force of the society is also felt, in a quite different 
way, in all states of intense collective emotion, of which the dance 
affords a good example. I have shown how in the dance the 
individual feels the society acting upon him, constraining him to 
join in the common activity and regulate his actions to conform 
with those of others, and, when he so acts in harmony with them, 
giving him the experience of a great increase of his own personal 
force or energy. All ceremonies in which the whole community 
takes part give the individual the experience of the moral force 
of the society acting upon him in somewhat the same way as 
the dance. 

Thus in these and other ways the individual does experience 
the action of the society upon himself as a sort of force, not 
however as a physical force, but as a moral force, acting directly 
in his own mind and yet clearly felt as something outside his own 
self, and with which that self may be in conflict. 

How is it, then, that this force comes to be projected into the 
world of nature? The answer to that question, which can only be 
very briefly indicated here, is to be found in the conclusions 
at which we have arrived with regard to social values. The moral 
force of the society is experienced by the individual not only 
directly but also as acting upon him indirectly through every 
object that has social value. The best example of this process is 
found in the things used for food. Thus, in the Andamans, food 
is very closely connected with the feeling of moral obligation, as 
we have seen. Further, food is one of the principal sources of 
those alternations of social euphoria and dysphoria in which, 
through the action of the collective emotion, the individual 
experiences the action of the society upon his own well-being. 
When food is plentiful happiness spreads through the community 
and the time is spent in dancing and feasting so that the individual 
feels a great increase in his own personal force coming to him from 
the society or from the food. On the other hand, when food 
is scarce and hunting unsuccessful the community feels itself 
thwarted and restrained and experiences a sense of weakness, 
which collective feeling has for its immediate object the food the 
lack of which is its origin. 

Similarly with the phenomena of the weather and all other 


objects that have social value, they are all associated in the mind 
of the individual with his experience of the action of the society 
upon himself, so that the moral force of the society is actually 
felt as acting through them. 

But it is really through the ceremonial that this is mainly 
brought about. It is in the initiation ceremonies that the moral 
force of the society acting through foods is chiefly felt, and the 
same experience is repeated in a less intense form in the rite 
of painting the body after food. It is similarly through the pro- 
tective use of the materials used for weapons and through the 
various ritual prohibitions connected with them that the moral 
force of the society acting through them is chiefly felt. The 
argument has been that it is by means of the ceremonial that 
the individual is made to feel the social value of the various 
things with which the ceremonial is concerned. Putting this in 
other words we can now define the ceremonial as the means by 
which the individual is made to feel the moral force of the 
society acting upon him either directly, or in some instances 
indirectly through those things that have important effects on the 
social life. By its action upon the individual the ceremonial 
develops and maintains in existence in his mind an organised 
system of dispositions by which the social life, in the particular 
form it takes in the Andamans, is made possible, using for 
the purpose of maintaining the social cohesion all the instinctive 
tendencies of human nature, modifying and combining them 
according to its needs. 

As an example of such modification of primary instincts 
let us briefly consider that of fear, to which, from the time of 
Petronius^ to the present day, so much importance has been 
attributed in relation to the origin of religion. In childhood any 
fear of danger makes the child run to its mother or father for 
protection, and thus the instinct of fear becomes an important 
component of that feeling of dependence that the child has 
towards its parents. The primitive society uses the fear instinct 
in much the same way. The Andaman Islander, through the 
ceremonies and customs of his people, is made to feel that he is 
in a world full of unseen dangers, — dangers from the foods he 

' Primus in orbe deos fecit timor. > 


eats, from the sea, the weather, the forest and its animals, but 
above all from the spirits of the dead, — which can only be avoided 
by the help of the society and by conformity with social custom. 
As men press close to one another in danger, the belief in and 
fear of the spirit-world make the Andaman Islander cling more 
firmly to his fellows, and make him feel more intensely his own 
dependence on the society to which he belongs, just as the fear 
of danger makes the child feel its dependence upon its parents. 
So the belief in the spirit-world serves directly to increase the 
cohesion of the society through its action on the mind of the 
individual. An important law of sociology is that the solidarity of 
a group is increased when the group as a whole finds itself opposed 
to some other group; so, enmity between two tribes or nations 
increases the solidarity of each ; and so also, the antagonism 
between the society of the living and the world of the dead 
increases the solidarity of the former. 

The argument is now concluded. I have examined, as fully 
as space would permit, all the more important features of the 
Andaman ceremonial, and have tried to show what part they 
play in the social life of the Andamans. At the end of our enquiry 
it is well to ask if any definition of ceremonial can be given more 
exact than the vague one with which we started. The chapter 
has shown that what I have denoted as ceremonial consists of 
(i) collective actions, (2) required by custom, (3) performed on 
occasions of changes in the course of social life, and (4) expressing 
the collective sentiments relating to such social change. By the 
first part of the definition we exclude the magicalpractices of the 
medicine-men, which however it has been convenient to consider 
in connection with the ceremonial, as it has helped us to under- 
stand some of the ideas underlying both magic and ceremonial. 
If we are not to exclude the rite of painting after eating food we 
must regard the obtaining of a good supply of food as being 
a change in the course of social life even though it occurs very 
frequently, and even every day for weeks together. It must be 
admitted, however, that the definition does not give us any very 
clear dividing line between ceremonial and art, play, or morals. 
The painting of the body with white clay after marriage or initia- 
tion must, I think, be regarded as ceremonial, while the painting 


of a new bow or canoe with the same clay in the same pattern 
should perhaps more conveniently be called art. But what are we 
to say of the painting worn at a dance or the face-painting that a 
man occasionally wears when there is no special reason ? The 
dance at the end of mourning is clearly a ceremony, but can we 
say the same of the ordinary dance after a successful hunt ? And 
if it be not ceremonial, shall we call it art or play ? When friends 
are required to give presents to a newly-married couple are we to 
call this obligation one of ceremonial, of etiquette or of morals ? 
These and similar questions are perhaps incapable of a satisfactory 
answer, nor does it seem necessary to attempt to find one. Those 
elements of culture that we now differentiate and call by different 
names were, in primitive societies, undifferentiated and not clearly 
to be distinguished from one another, and a striving after too 
great a precision of definition in dealing with such a culture as that 
of the Andamans leads, I think, not to a clearer understanding, 
but to the opposite. The main thing is to keep close to the facts. 
In this chapter I have examined a number of facts which are 
plainly related and the question of how we are to label them 
is one that may well be left till such time as we shall have 
acquired a more profound insight into the nature of culture in 
general and the complex forces involved in its existence and 
growth. For the present, some vagueness in our provisional 
classifications need not greatly perturb us. 



In the last chapter I tried to explain, by reference to psycho- 
logical principles, the more important ritual and ceremonial 
observances of the Andamanese ; in the present chapter I shall 
deal in a similar manner with the legends recorded in Chapter iv. 
That is to say, I propose to explain, not how the legends arose, 
but what they mean, what part they play at the present time in 
the mental life of the Andaman Islander. Customs that seem at 
first sight meaningless or ridiculous have been shown to fulfil 
most important functions in the social economy, and similarly I 
hope to prove that the tales that might seem merely the pro- 
ducts of a somewhat childish fancy are very far indeed from 
being merely fanciful and are the means by which the Anda- 
manese express and systematise their fundamental notions of life 
and nature and the sentiments attaching to those notions. 

I propose to analyse a few of the more important legends, 
and will begin with the Akar-Bale story of the origin of night 
and day^ The explanation of this story depends on the con- 
nection of day and night with the cicada. This species of 
cicada, of which I do not know the scientific name, always 
makes a noise ("sings" as the natives say) during the short 
interval of twilight between sunset and darkness and between 
dawn and sunrise. It is possible that individual insects of the 
species make a noise at other times of the day and night, but I do 
not remember to have heard them, and it is only at the beginning 
and end of the day that they are all to be heard singing together. 

^ Page 214. 


The song of the cicada, as day gives place to night and as 
night changes to day is one of the most famihar of all natural 
phenomena to the Andamanese. Another fact that is made use 
of in the legend is that if one of these insects be crushed as was 
the cicada of the story, or even if it be taken up in the hand, it 
will utter its shrill and plaintive note, not unlike the cry of a 
human being in pain. Finally, fully to understand the tale, it is 
necessary to remember that in all the tribes of the Great Anda- 
man Division there is a prohibition against killing the cicada. 
The meaning of this prohibition will have to be discussed in 
connection with the legend. 

The facts stated above enable us to understand what may be 
called the skeleton of the legend. One of the ancestors killed a 
cicada (a forbidden act), the cicada uttered its cry (as it does 
when hurt), and as a result, darkness covered the world (as 
it always does when the cicada sings in the evening). Leaving 
aside, for the present, the rest of the story, we may try to make 
clear to ourselves just what this part of it expresses. The 
explanation that I propose is to the effect that the legend is 
simply an expression or a statement of the "social value" of the 
phenomenon of the alternation of day and night. By the social 
value of anything I mean, as explained in the last chapter, 
the way in which that thing affects the life of the society (either 1 
beneficially or adversely) and therefore the way in which it 
affects the social sentiments of the individuals who compose the 
society. There is no need to discuss at length and in all 
its bearings, the way in which the alternation of day and night 
affects the social life of the Andamanese. The one outstanding 
feature of first importance is that the day is the time of social 
activity whereas the night is a period when the society is, as 
a rule, not active. It was shown in the last chapter that one of 
the most important elements in the mental complex revealed by 
a study of the ceremonial is the recognition of the fact that it is 
on the activity of the society that the individual depends for his 
security and well-being. So long as he can feel that he is an 
active member of an active community the individual feels that 
he has for his support (morally and physically) a great force on 
which he can rely. If, for any reason, he is temporarily cut off 


from the society and from participation in its life, he is in a 
position of insecurity, and beheves himself to be in danger from 
the powers of the world of spirits. It is an inevitable result of 
this that the daytime, when the society is active, should be felt 
to be a period of comparative security, while the night, when all 
social activity ceases, should be felt to be a period of comparative 
insecurity. That the day and night are so regarded is shown in 
the belief of the natives that the spirits are more to be dreaded 
during the night than during the day. 

The Andaman Islander, like many other savages, is afraid of 
the dark. It might perhaps be thought that this fear is imme- 
diate and instinctive, a result of the physiology of the human 
nervous system, but that, I think, would be a false assumption. 
Many infants would seem not to be at first afraid of darkness, 
but to learn to fear it, as they learn to fear many other things. 
It is not possible here to enter into a discussion of the matter, 
but I would hold that in the Andaman Islanders and probably 
in other savages, the fear of darkness, of night, is a secondary or 
induced feeling, not by any means instinctive, and is in large 
part due to the social sentiments, to the fact that at night the 
social life ceases. The savage feels, and rightly so, that for every- 
thing he has and is, for the safety and well-being of his body and 
the comfort of his soul, he depends on the communal life in which 
his own life is merged. When, at the close of day, the social 
life ceases, he feels, should anything occur to direct his attention 
to his own condition, less secure than when the social life is pro- 
ceeding actively around him\ 

The interpretation that I would offer of the Akar-Bale 
legend is that it is an expression of these sentiments relating 
to the night, an expression that takes advantage of the connec- 
tion between the song of the cicada and the alternation of night 
and day. One feature of the manner of expression will be 
explained later in the chapter, namely that it takes the form of 
a story relating to a mythical period of the past. For the 
present the necessity of this particular form must be accepted 

1 We have seen, in the last chapter, that any condition of the individual in which 
he is withdrawn from active participation in the common life is regarded as one of 
danger from magico- religious forces antagonistic to the society. 


as a postulate. Granting this it remains only to show that 
the legend does express the social value of night as defined 

The fear of night, or rather, since that fear is rarely more 
than potential, the feeling that night is a time of insecurity, is 
part of the general attitude of fear or respect towards the forces 
of nature that are believed to be possible sources of danger to 
the society. Now it has been shown that this particular attitude 
to nature finds expression in ritual prohibitions of various kinds. 
For instance, the Andaman Islander translates his feeling of the 
social value of food substances into the belief that such things 
must be treated with ritual precautions. Applying this to the 
case before us, we must first recognize that to the Andaman 
Islander the alternation of day and night and the singing of the 
cicada are not separate phenomena but are two parts or aspects 
of one and the same recurring event. Now, the night and the 
day are things that cannot be handled, i.e., cannot be immediately 
subject to the actions of human beings, while the cicada can be 
handled. Hence it is to the cicada that the need of precaution - 
is referred. Any interference with the cicada is forbidden, and 
this prohibition serves as a mark or expression of the social 
value of that alternation of night and day with which the cicada 
is so intimately associated ^ 

The legend of the Akar-Bale tribe is simply an elaboration 
of this theme. In the beginning there was no night, no darkness. 
Social life was continuous and was not subject to periods of 
diminished intensity. Then one of the ancestors (apparently in 
a fit of temper owing to his lack of success in fishing) crushed a 
cicada, and the cry of the insect brought darkness upon the 
world. The darkness, with its inhibition of activity, is clearly 
regarded as an evil, i.e., as a manifestation of force hostile 
to the society, and this accords with the definition of the 
social value of night given above, where it was shown that 
this value is negative, that night is a source of social 

^ It will be shown later in the chapter that some part of the respect paid to the 
cicada is due to its connection not with the day and night but with the seasons of 
the year. 


This interpretation is confirmed by the statements about the 
night made in the North Andaman (where this legend does not 
seem to exist), such as that the night is made by the spirits 
{Lau) who draw a mat or cloth across the sky. When we 
remember that the spirits are the embodiment of the forces 
hostile to the society we see how this statement expresses the 
feeling that night is the time when such hostile forces are in the 

The Akar-Bale story, besides giving an account of the origin 
of night, relates the invention of singing and dancing. There is 
no specific reference to dancing in the story as recorded from my 
Akar-Bale informant. The reference is found, however, in the 
version recorded by Mr Man^ and it is implicit even in the 
Akar-Bale version. Dancing is always accompanied by a song, 
and every song is composed with the express intention of being 
sung at a dance. Thus, for the Andamanese, singing and 
dancing are merely two aspects of one and the same activity. 

Dancing, except on a few special ceremonial occasions, 
always takes place at night. Night, as we have seen, is a source 
of social dysphoria. It prevents the pursuit of the common 
social activities, such as hunting or making canoes or weapons. 
The condition produced by darkness can be neutralised by 
means of singing and dancing, the dance being a condition of 
intense social euphoria, in which social activity is at its maxi- 
mum, and all the social sentiments are pleasurably and intensely 

This belief that dancing and singing are means by which the 
evil influence of darkness can be overcome is shown in the 
custom observed when a corpse remains in a camp all night, of 
sitting round it and singing, in order (so the natives say) to 
keep away the spirits that have caused the death. They do not 
dance, because the pleasurable excitement of the more intense 
activity would be incompatible with the condition naturally 
resulting from a death. This custom affords clear evidence that 
singing, and in a yet higher degree the combined activity of 
singing and dancing, possess magical efficacy against the dangers 
prevalent at night. 

1 Page 215. 


This relation between the (negative) social value of night 
and the (positive) social value of dancing and singing is simply 
and clearly expressed in the legend. It was the "singing" of 
the cicada that produced the darkness. The ancestors, finding 
themselves overwhelmed with darkness, set to work to remedy 
this evil by singing (and, it is to be presumed, by dancing to the 
song). One after another they sang a song, just as at a dance 
one man after another sings until he is tired. Finally, after the 
dance had gone on for a number of hours, Koyoro took his turn 
at singing and the night came to an end and day appeared. So 
effectual was the means adopted of neutralising the evils of dark- 
ness that it finally resulted in the return of the daylight in which 
ordinary social life is possible. 

The reference to resin in the legend can be easily understood. 
The Andamanese use resin to provide the light by which they 
dance, as well as for torches for fishing on dark nights. It is 
their only artificial light, and without resin a dance would be a very 
poor affair. Thus the social value of resin is that it affords a 
means of neutralising to a certain extent the effects of darkness. 

These are, I think, all the essential elements of the story. 
One of the ancestors, under the influence of an anti-social passion, 
killed a cicada, which uttered its cry, and thereupon the world 
was covered with darkness. The ancestors then made torches of 
resin which enabled them to neutralise the darkness to some 
extent. They then invented dancing and singing and after they 
had continued for a number of hours the light came back. Since 
that time day and night regularly alternate with one another, 
and the cicada sings at each period of change. Men have learnt 
how to use resin for artificial light, and how to remedy the effects 
of darkness by dancing and singing. 

The legend is thus simply the expression in a particular form 
of the relation between the society and a certain natural phe- 
nomenon in terms of what have been called social values. We 
find expressed the social values of night and of resin and 
dancing. It may be noted that the legend also gives a special 
social value to the ancestors, different from and greater than that 
of men or women at the present day. The ancestors of the 
Andamanese were able to do many things that men cannot do 


now ; they were able to affect the processes of nature in a way 
that is no longer possible. This notion of the social value of the 
ancestors, of the past, will be shown to be one of the most 
important elements in the legends, it being this that is respon- 
sible for the general form of the stories. The consideration of 
this subject, however, must be postponed. 

There are still a number of points of the legend that have 
not been considered. It is not easy to account for the inclusion 
in this story of the discovery of the yam. It is possible that 
there is some ground of association between the yam and the 
cicada, but I do not certainly know of any such. There is a 
legend recorded by Mr Man from the Aka-Bea tribe, and given 
above^ in which an account is given of the lucky discovery of the 
first yam by the chance shooting of an arrow. It is therefore 
quite likely that the yam story first existed quite independently, 
and that it has become incorporated in the legend of the origin 
of night on account of the fact that the incident of the shooting 
of an arrow was found in both of them. 

There is one reason for the inclusion of the yam incident 
that it is worth while to note. By its means it is told how 
Da Teyat discovered a new object of each of the three kinds — 
animal, vegetable, and mineral. The new animal was the 
cicada, the new vegetable was the yam, and the new mineral was 
the resin, which, as the story shows, the natives classify as a 
"stone," although they know its vegetable origin. The story is 
thus rounded off and given an air of completeness and symmetry. 

The incident of the shooting of the three arrows is of some 
interest as giving us an idea of how the Andamanese think of 
chance or luck. Arrows, it must be remembered, are regarded 
as being possessed of magical power. Further, the ancestors them- 
selves possessed powers that do not belong to living men, as is 
shown repeatedly in the legends. The ancestor shoots an arrow, 
and, by reason of his power and that of the arrow, it strikes an 
important object and leads him to a discovery. The mere 
striking of the object by the arrow seems to give him a certain 
degree of power over the object, whereby he forces it to reveal 
its name. (We have already seen, by a reference to this very 

^ Page 221. 


story, that there is an important connection between the name 
of an obj'xt and its social valued) Thus, in common with other 
primitive peoples, the Andaman Islanders regard what we call 
luck or chance as due to the action of the magical powers 
possessed by objects and by human beings. 

There is one point that is not very plain in the Akar-Bale 
version, but I think we must take it that Da Teyat was dis- 
gusted at his lack of success in fishing. His irritation was not 
diminished but rather increased by the fact that he did succeed 
in procuring one small and worthless fish. His shooting of the 
arrows must be regarded, I think, as the result of his anger. He 
might be supposed to address his arrows as follows : " You have 
not succeeded in hitting any fish at which I aimed you ; let me 
see if you can hit anything on your own account, when I take 
no aim." In this way he was led to the discovery of the yam, 
the resin and the cicada, for though it is not explicit, it is 
evident that it was the third arrow that led him to the cicada. 
His irritation was not yet appeased however, and he crushed the 
cicada, thus bringing darkness over the world. We must infer 
that he was aware of what he was doing, for as soon as he had 
discovered the yam and the resin he learnt their names and 
thereby learnt all there was to know about them and their 
properties, and we must suppose that he similarly learnt the 
name of the cicada, and that to injure it would cause darkness. 
In the Aka-Bea legend recorded by Mr Man it is expressly 
stated that the ancestors who performed the actions that led 
to the first darkness did so because they were annoyed by the 
continuous heat of the sun I — rvs* 

Now we have here a very important feature of the legend '\ 
which it will not do to overlook. We shall find that it is a 
principle of the Andaman legends that evil results follow from 
evil actions. Night, which, by reason of its negative social value, 
is regarded as an evil, is shown to be the result of the mis- / 
behaviour of one of the ancestors in giving way to anti-social 
feelings of anger or annoyance. It is a case of like producing 
like. When an individual gives way to such feelings as anger 
he becomes a source of danger to the society, or at any rate a 

1 Page 294. ^ Page 215. 

B. A. 22 


source of social dysphoria by disturbing the harmony of the 
community. Thus, in the legend, it was the wickedness of the 
ancestor in giving way to his feeling of irritation that led to the 
social disaster. Inversely, it was through the combined effort 
of the ancestors joining in a harmonious action (singing and 
dancing) that the day was brought back. 

The events of the legend are supposed to have taken place 
at a spot named Golugma. I only visited this spot once and 
did not take particular note of it, nor have I information about 
the position it occupied in the social life of that part of the 
island in former times. We do know, however, from the name 
Golugma Bud, that at one time it was the site of a communal 
hut and was therefore an important camping place. It may 
have been a place at which dance-meetings were frequently held, 
and this would be a sufficient reason for its selection as the 
legendary site of the first dance. 

One of the minor motives of the Akar-Bale version of this 
story is the identity of the ancestor who appears as the chief 
actor. I regret to say that I have never found the exact 
meaning of the word teyat. Though I asked the natives to 
bring me a specimen they did not do so. It is probably either 
a species of spider or of ant. However, even if I had succeeded 
in identifying the teyat, it is possible that I should not have 
discovered the reason why this particular creature was selected 
as the hero of the story. This can be shown by considering 
another of the incidents of the story. All the ancestors who 
sang and tried to bring back the day failed except the koyoro. 
This is a species of small red ant. Whenever I heard this story 
told or referred to, this particular incident (the successful singing 
of koyoro) caused great amusement amongst the listeners. It 
was obvious that it was a good joke. Yet in spite of my 
endeavours on more than one occasion I was unable to see what 
the joke was. 

In the A-Pucikwar version of the same legend^ it was Petie, 
the monitor lizard, who crushed the cicada and brought darkness. 
This is to be explained not on the basis of any particular 
characteristic of the lizard, but as being due to the position that 

* Page 213. 


this animal occupies in the A-Pucikwar mythology in general 
as the fi rst ancestor of the Andamanese, As the first progenitor 
he is made responsible for the origin of all sorts of things. The 
story of the origin of night must have a chief actor, and in the 
absence of any important ground for selecting any other of the 
ancestors the A-Pucikwar story-teller falls back on the monitor 

In the above analysis I have drawn a distinction between 
what may be called major and minor motives of the story. The 
validity of the interpretation of the legends offered in this chapter 
depends on the validity of this distinction, and it is therefore im- 
portant to provide a method by which we can separate major 
from minor motives. This can only be done when there are 
several versions of the same legend. Major motives may be de- 
fined as those which appear in all the versions of one legend, 
while minor motives are those which may vary from one version 
to another without producing any fundamental change in the 
legend itself. Thus, by a comparison of the Akar-Bale and the 
A-Pucikwar versions it can be shown that the identity of the 
chief actor is a minor and not a major motive. 

If we compare X^csq Akar-Bale legend with \h& Aka-Bea version 
recorded by Mr Man we see that they have in common (i) the 
explanation of the origin of night as due to the breaking of 
a rule, (2) the tracing back of the trouble to the anti-social passion 
of anger on the part of the actor or actors, (3) the account of the 
origin of dancing and singing as a means of neutralising the effects 
of darkness. All the other elements of the story are different in 
the two versions. In the Aka-Bea story it is the killing of 
a grub {gurug) that brings on the night, which is itself called 
giirug. What the meaning of this may be I cannot say. I did 
not hear this version of the story, and was not able to make any 
enquiries concerning it. All that it is necessary to note is that 
both the legends express the social value of night, and they both 
express it in very much the same way, the difference being that 
the Akar-Bale version makes use of the connection between 
night and day and the cicada, while the Aka-Bea story makes a 
similar use of some connection (not yet explained) between the 
night and a grub. 

22 — 2 


Thus the comparison of different versions confirms the inter- 
pretation here given. The legend expresses the negative social 
value of night as a period when social activity is diminished and 
the power of protection of the society therefore lessened. It does 
so by telling how the night first arose as the result of dis- 
obedience to a ritual prohibition, i.e., of meddling with the forces 
of nature. It traces the original cause yet further back to the 
anger of one of the ancestors, anger being itself a sojrce of 
social disturbance. It passes on to express the social value of 
the dance, with its accompanying song, and exhibits the relation^ 
within the system of social values, of dancing and darkness. 
Thus, although the manner of expression may differ, yet what is 
expressed is the same in both versions, and we are therefore 
lustified in regarding this as the essential content of them. 

An exactly parallel explanation can be given of the Andaman 
notions relating to the moon. The social value of moonlight is 
due to the fact that it enables the natives to fish and catch turtle 
and dugong by night. A clear moonlight night affords the best 
opportunity for harpooning dugong. During the second quarter 
the light of the moon steadily increases, and the period of moon- 
light falls in the first part of the night. After the change to the 
third quarter the light steadily diminishes, and moreover there 
is a gradually increasing period of complete darkness at the 
beginning of the night. The natives do not care to get up in 
the middle of the night to go fishing or hunting turtle. There- 
fore the second quarter is the time when they undertake such 
expeditions, and after the change to the third quarter they 
abandon them largely or entirely, and if they do go out they 
have to depend on torches. Therefore we may say that during 
the second quarter the moon gives valuable help to the natives, 
but during the third quarter withdraws that help. 

At the beginning of the third quarter the moon rises in the 
evening with a ruddy hue. The natives explain this red and 
swollen appearance by saying that the moon is angry. When a 
man does something that hurts or damages another it is generally 
(in Andamanese life) because he is angry. So to say that the 
moon is angry is equivalent to saying that he is damaging or 
hurting someone, as he is indeed damaging the society by with- 


drawing the light by which for the past week or so they have 
been able to capture fish and turtle. The phenomena of the 
change of the moon in so far as they affect the social life are 
represented as if they were the actions of a human being. We 
may describe this briefly by saying that the moon is personified, 
using that term in a special sense to be defined more exactly 
later. Amongst the Andamanese, as amongst ourselves, anger is 
associated with heat, and this explains why the red glow of the 
moon when he rises during the first few nights of the third quarter 
is regarded as the visible sign of his anger. 

Even the moon, however, is not to be expected to be angry 
without a cause. The natives say that the anger is due to some 
bright light having been visible at the time the moon rises. The 
personification is thus further elaborated. The moon gives the 
light by which fishing and turtle hunting at night are possible. 
This light has a positive social value, and its withdrawal is an 
evil. They therefore regard the moon as jealous, so jealous that 
if anyone makes use of an artificial light, as of a fire or torch or 
burning resin, the moon immediately is consumed with anger 
and withdraws the light that has been of so much use and has 
not been sufficiently appreciated. This belief is a means by 
which the value of the moonlight is recognized. Thus the be- 
liefs about the moon can be interpreted in exactly the same 
way as the legend about night; both express, in accordance 
with the same psychological laws, the social values of natural 

I will next consider not a single legend but a number of 
different stories, running through all of which we can find a 
single major motive. I have recorded^ three legends which 
relate, with some differences of detail, how in the beginning the 
ancestors had no fire, how fire was introduced by one of them, 
and how many of them, being burnt or frightened, were turned 
into animals of different kinds. In one version^ the sea-eagle 
came into the camp of the ancestors and threw fire amongst 
them ; whereby many of them being frightened were turned into 
animals. Another version is very similar, the chief actor, how- 
ever, being the prawn^ In an Akar-Bale version Dim-dori,r\ow 
1 Pages 207 and 204. ^ Page 207. ^ Ibid. 


a fish, obtained the fire and burnt some of the ancestors with it 
so that they became fishes ^ 

This legend is a widespread one, being found both in the 
north and in the south of the islands. The fact that the actor is 
different in the three recorded versions proves that the identity 
of the hero of the tale is a minor motive, i.e., one that may be 
varied without affecting the essential meaning of the myth. 

The story serves as an explanation of the markings on 
birds and fishes, these being where the ancestor who became 
the species was burnt by the fire. Thus the legend is of the 
kind that is often called etiological. The common method of 
explaining such legends is to say that they are crude attempts 
on the part of primitive man to explain the natural phenomena 
with which they deal, in this case the bright colours of birds and 
fishes. Such an interpretation cannot be regarded as adequate. 
Why should the Andaman Islanders want to explain the markings 
of animals ? Why should they explain them in the form of a 
legend, and why should the legend take this peculiar form ? 

The clue to the true interpretation of the three stories 
mentioned must be sought in the social value of fire. It was 
shown in the last chapter that fire is regarded as the symbol 
of social life and social activity, the centre around which the 
social life revolves, the source from which it draws its force. We 
may say, in a word, that it is the possession of fire that makes 
social life (as the Andamanese know it) possible. It was shown 
that it is on account of this relation of the society to fire that the 
latter is believed to be a source of security, of protection against 
the spirits. Now amongst all the creatures that inhabit the 
world, man is the only one that possesses and makes use of fire. 
Here, then, is the fundamental notion that is expressed in these 
legends. At first, so the story runs, animals and human beings 
were one, were not distinguished. Then came the discovery of 
fire. Some of the (undifferentiated) ancestors fled from the fire, 
because they were afraid of it, or because it burnt them. They 
became birds and beasts and fishes, retaining their fear of the 
fire, and being cut off for ever from the human society which, 
from that moment, constitutes itself around the fire. It is the 

* Page 204. 


possession of the fire that makes human beings what they are, 
that makes life as they live it possible. It is equally (according 
to the legend) the lack of fire, or the lack of ability to make use 
of fire, that makes the animals what they are, that cuts them off 
from participation in human life. 

This, briefly, is the way I would explain the legend mentioned 
above, and ample confirmation will be forthcoming when we 
consider some of the other legends. Attention may be called 
here to a very significant phrase in a version of the fire legend 
recorded by Mr Portman^ to the effect that "it was on account 
of the fire (i.e. of the possession of fire) that the ancestors became 

The three stories considered above contain three motives, 
(i) They express the social value of fire, by making the founda- 
tion of human society (through the differentiation of men and 
animals) depend on the discovery of fire. (2) They express a 
peculiar notion as to the relation of the human species to other 
animals, which is found also in other legends. (3) They give a 
legendary explanation of some of the characteristics of animals, 
such as the bright colours of certain birds and fishes. 

It would seem that these same motives are present in many 
of the legends relating to the origin of fire. In the common 
version of the fire legend the fire is stolen from Biliku {Puluga) 
by the kingfisher. This bird has a patch of bright red feathers 
at the neck and these are explained as being where he was 
struck by the fire or the pearl-shell (lightning) flung by Biliku. 
In one variant the kingfisher swallowed the fire and had his 
head cut off by the lightning, whereupon the fire came out of his 
neck where the red feathers now are. In most of the versions it 
would seem to be implied that though the kingfisher succeeded 
in obtaining fire for the use of the ancestors, he was himself 
unable to profit by his own exertions, for he was turned into a 
bird condemned to eat his fish raw for ever. In one story, how- 
ever, from the Aka-Kede tribe, it would seem that the kingfisher, 
by the possession of fire, and through the loss of his wings and 
tail, became a man. There is a lack of logic here which it 
is worth while to note. Although the kingfisher became a man 

1 Page 203. 


yet the legend is clearly based on the explanation of the red 
feathers of the bird's neck as due to the action of the fire. The 
psychological significance of such inconsistencies as this will 
have to be discussed later on. 

Let us now consider another group of legends. We have 
seen that one explanation (in the mythological sense) of how the 
birds arose is that they were ancestors who fled from the fire. 
There are other stories that give a different account and relate 
that the animals came into existence through a great flood or 
storm that overwhelmed the ancestors. Both of these legends 
are to be found in the same tribes. Their incompatibility does 
not prevent them from being both equally accepted. If it can 
be shown that the story of the flood is simply an alternative 
method of expressing the same set of representations that 
underlie the story of the origin of the animals through the 
discovery of fire, the interpretation of the latter will be in some 
degree confirmed. 

One account of the flood or storm, variants of which were 
obtained from both the north and south of the islands, tells how 
the ancestors only with great difficulty succeeded in saving the 
fire. Although it is not explicitly stated, we may conclude, 
I think, that it was because some of the ancestors kept their fire 
alight that they remained human, while those who lost their fire 
were turned into animals. If my personal impressions are of 
any value, this is really the idea that does underlie the legend 
in the native mind. Thus it would appear that this version of 
the flood myth is simply a reversal of the fire legend previously 
considered. They both express the same thing in different ways. 
They both make the possession of fire the thing on which social 
(i.e., human) life depends, the fundamental difference between 
man and animals. 

It may be objected to this interpretation that in some of the 
versions of the flood myth there is no reference to the ancestors 
being turned into animals, while in others there is no reference 
to the saving of the fire. The reply to this is that if we are to 
understand the legends we must not consider each separately, 
but must seek out the connections between the different stories, 
connections that are not always obvious. Thus, as there are, in 


each of the tribes, different versions of a flood myth it might be 
supposed that the natives beHeve in several different floods 
having taken place in the times of the ancestors. Mr Man 
seems to have come to the conclusion that there were two 
distinct floods. I am fully satisfied, from personal knowledge, 
that the natives think of only one flood or catastrophe, and refer 
to it all the different legends. Sometimes a man will relate how 
the flood came and the fire was nearly lost, but will make 
no mention of the origin of animals at this time. At another 
time the same man will relate how the flood turned the ancestors 
into animals, but will make no mention of the saving of the fire. 
To understand the meaning of the legends we must connect 
these different stories together, for we know that they are con- 
nected in the minds of the Andaman Islanders themselves. 
Every native knows that it was at the time of the flood that the 
animals came into existence and he may remember this fact when 
he hears the story of how the fire was nearly lost. Similarly, when 
he hears the story of how the animals came into existence he 
remembers the other story of how the fire was nearly lost. Thus 
one man gave me a legend of the flood which explained the 
origin of the animals, and at the very end he mentioned as an 
afterthought "It was at this time that the fire was saved by Maia 

When we thus connect the different stories relating to the 
flood we see that they express a definite system of representa- 
tions or beliefs, which are found in all the tribes, and that this 
system is sometimes completely and sometimes partially ex- 
pressed in the different versions. On the interpretation here 
suggested the major motives of the flood myth are (i) the social 
value of fire as expressed by making the difference between 
man and the animals depend on its possession by the former and 
not by the latter, and (2) the notion of the animals as having 
once been one with the ancestors. These two motives are both 
present in the legends of the origin of fire that were previously 
considered. It can be shown that even the third motive of the 
fire legend manages to creep into the flood story. In the 
Aka-Kede version^ the dove is mentioned as having saved the 

Page 207. 


fire. The connection between the dove and the fire (which 
appears in other legends)^ would seem to have its basis in the 
shining plumage of the bird, just as the kingfisher is connected 
with the fire through the red feathers of its neck. 

The details of the legends may be briefly mentioned. One 
Aka-Jeru version^ explains how one of the ancestors made 
a noise by breaking firewood while the cjcada was singing and 
so raised a great storm, in which the fire was nearly lost, and in 
which many of the ancestors were turned into animals. This 
version is a fairly complete expression of the fundamental 
representations on which the whole group of legends is based. 
There is an elaboration of one point in that an account is given 
of how the cyclone was brought about. This is a separate 
motive which will be discussed and explained later in connection 
with the Biliku myth. 

Another legend from the same tribe^ relates to a storm that 
was caused in the same way, and that resulted in the destruction 
of the whole world. The fire, which was nearly extinguished, 
was saved by one of the ancestors. No mention was made of 
the ancestors being turned into animals. This version, however, 
as I have recorded it, is incomplete. I was unfortunately unable 
to understand some of what the narrator told me. 

The Aka-Kede version* similarly does not distinctly state 
that the ancestors who were destroyed by the flood were turned 
into animals, but the fact that the three persons mentioned in 
the legend are all birds suggests that it was at this time that the 
birds originated. The bird called carami-lebek, having lowered 
the surviving ancestors to the ground with their fire, remained at 
the top of the Dipterocarpus tree and has been there ever since. 
The Aka-Kol version of the same story ^ simply states that the 
ancestors were turned into animals in a cyclone, but contains no 
mention of the rescue of the fire. 

In a number of these legends it is stated that the ancestors 
saved themselves by climbing up into a tall tree or into the 
trees. This is to be explained by the fact that the birds all live 
up in the trees, and a great many of them can never be seen 
save overhead. The top of the forest is where the birds live, it 
^ Page 202. ^ Page 206, ' Ibid. "* Page 207. ^ Page 208. 


is their world, raised above the world of men and women. The 
flood drove the inhabitants up to the tops of the trees. The 
birds remained there and only the human beings came down 
again. As the original inhabitants were driven up into the 
trees by water covering the land we may complete the myth by 
saying that those who failed to reach the upper world were on 
that account compelled to spend the rest of their existence in the 
water as fish and turtle. This is, I think, what the legend really 
means. Thus the story of the flood gives a picture of a three- 
fold world, the waters below with their inhabitants the fishes and 
turtle and other marine creatures, the solid earth, and the upper 
region of the top of the forest where the flowers bloom and the 
butterflies and other insects and the birds pass their lives. This 
representation of the top of the forest as a world in itself may 
seem strange to one who has never seen a tropical forest, but to 
one who has spent months beneath it the forest-top of the 
Andamans does seem a world in itself, near yet inaccessible, a 
world where there is a gay and interesting life in the sunshine 
above, of which the wanderer in the deep shade beneath can only 
catch occasional glimpses as he gazes up through the tangle of 
boughs and leaves. For the natives of the islands therefore the 
top of the forest is an alien world into which they can only 
penetrate with extreme difficulty, by climbing, and with the life 
of which they have little to do. Similarly the waters of the sea 
are another world into which they can only penetrate for a few 
moments at a time by diving^ 

It may be said that, on this view, no allowance is made for 
the existence of terrestrial animals. That is true, but it must 
be remembered that there are very few such animals in the 
Andamans. The civet-cat and the monitor lizard and some of 
the snakes are as much arboreal in their habits as they are 
terrestrial. There remain only the pig and the rat as true 
terrestrial animals, and it may be noted that neither of these two 
animals ever figures in the legends as an ancestor. There are 
independent legends that relate to the origin of the pig, and the 

1 The same threefold division of the world is seen in the beliefs about the three 
kinds of spirits, those of the forest, those of the sea, and the Morua who, while spoken 
of as spirits of the sky, are often thought of as living in the tops of the tall trees. 


rat seems to be of so little importance that no explanation of its 
origin would seem to be necessary. Moreover the monitor 
lizard and the civet-cat, which are partly terrestrial, occupy for 
this reason exceptional positions in the legends. Thus there is 
a legend recorded from the Aka-Kede tribe which accounts for 
the simultaneous origin of the civet-cat and the pigs through a 
game of the ancestors \ The monitor lizard is in an altogether 
exceptional position in that it is equally at home in the trees, on 
the ground and in the water of a creek. It is in a way free of 
all the three divisions of the world. This helps us to understand 
why in some of the tribes the monitor lizard is regarded as the 
original ancestor not only of the Andamanese but also of all the 
animals, including the birds of the forest and the fishes of the 
sea. The civet-cat cannot live in the water as the lizard can^, but 
can climb trees and run on the ground. In many of the legends 
the civet-cat is said to be the wife of the monitor lizard. It will 
be remembered that in the Akar-Bale story it is the civet-cat, 
the wife of the first ancestor (the monitor lizard), who saved the 
fire from the flood by climbing up to the top of a steep hill with 
it. Thus it may be seen that the position of the monitor lizard 
and the civet-cat in the legends of the Andamanese is partly 
determined by the position that these two animals occupy in 
relation to the threefold division of the world revealed in the 
story of the flood. 

The repeated mention of the Dipterocarpus tree in these 
legends would seem to indicate that it is a motive of importance. 
The tree is the tallest tree of the Andaman forests, and is very 
common, but it is probable that this does not afford an adequate 
explanation, and that there are other ideas connected with it in 
the minds of the Andamanese that would justify the place it 
occupies in the mythology. In one Aka-Jeru story the whole 
forest is said to have sprung from a Dipterocarpus seed dropped 
by Biliku after she had destroyed the original forest in her 
anger. It may be noted in passing that in the languages of the 
North Andaman the word for this tree is the same as the word 
for dugong. 

^ Page 218. 

^ It is worth while to recall here the belief that if a man goes into the water after 
eating civet-cat he will not be able to swim. 


Let us now briefly examine the story of the origin of animals 
as recorded from the Akar-Bale tribes There are three variants 
of this story. The one recorded from an A-Pucikwar informant' 
must really be regarded, I believe, as an imperfect reproduction 
of the Akar-Bale version. The version given by Mr Man^ is also 
of Akar-Bale origin, as is shown by the fact that the phrases in 
it are in the Akar-Bale language. A comparison of these variants 
shows that the main purpose of the story is to relate how a great 
storm or cyclone visited the islands in the times of the ancestors 
and turned many of them into animals. The storm was brought 
about by the action of one of the ancestors who in anger did some 
of the things that are known to anger Puluga and cause a storm. 

In some of the other legends we find the same motive. Thus 
in an Aka-Jerii legend* the flood is said to have been caused by 
one of the ancestors breaking firewood while the cicada was 
singing. In an Aka-Kede version^ this part of the story is 
further elaborated, and a reason is given for this action on the 
part of the ancestor. Kopo-tera-wat was angry with the rest of 
the ancestors because they refused to give him any of the honey 
they had collected, and he therefore deliberately performed the 
action that brought the storm. The purpose of these elements 
of the legend is to explain how the great flood came about, by 
tracing it to the anti-social action of some one or more of the 
ancestors, just as the night is supposed to have been produced 
by an ancestor who performed a forbidden action. In the 
Aka-Kede version and also, as we shall see, in the Akar-Bale 
story, the matter is traced still further back and the anti-social 
action of the ancestor is explained as being caused by his anger 
which had been aroused by a disagreement with the ancestors. 
The origin of the catastrophe that separated the once united 
ancestors into animals and human beings is thus traced to the 
fact that they could not live together sociably and in harmony. 

In the Akar-Bale story the part which explains how one ol 
the ancestors came to give way to anger is highly elaborated. 
It starts with the quarrel of the tree-lizard with some of the 
ancestors. (It may be noted in passing that the tree-lizard is 
quarrelsome in reality.) This leads to the death of the lizard (or 

^ Page 208. 2 Ibid. ^ Page 209. * Page 206. ^ Page 207. 


his transformation into an animal that still bears the name), and 
so to the grief of his mother and her anger against the ancestors 
who have killed her son. This elaboration of one part of the 
story tends to obscure the meaning of the whole. This is 
particularly the case in the version recorded by myself in which 
the anger of the tree-lizard is the direct cause of the change of 
some of the ancestors into animals. The narrator sets out to 
explain how a flood or cyclone came and turned the ancestors 
into fishes and birds. He elaborates the details of the first part 
of the story to such an extent that he loses sight of the con- 
clusion. The purpose of the story as explaining the origin of 
animals remains in his mind, however, and gives rise to the 
description of how some of the animals had their origin as 
animals (i.e., were cut off from the human society) by being 
thrown by the lizard into the forest or into the sea. The legend 
in this form may therefore be regarded as giving an alternative 
explanation of the separation of the animals from the human 
society, the cause of the separation being a great quarrel in 
which they were all involved. In other words, human society is 
only possible if personal anger be subordinated to the need of 
good order; the animals are cut off from human society because 
they could not live peaceably together without quarrelling. 

The examination of the variants of the flood-myth has taken 
us away from the main argument. In the various stories there 
are two separable elements. There is first the explanation of how 
a disastrous flood or storm was caused by the non-observance 
of ritual prohibitions connected with Biliku {Pulugd). This 
element will have to be considered in relation to the Biliku 
myth. There is secondly the account of how through the flood 
or storm the birds and fishes became separated from the human 
race, and the three regions of the world, as the Andaman Islander 
knows it, became established. It is this second element that I 
have sought to explain. To repeat the argument, I would hold 
that it is really through the loss of the fire that the birds and 
fishes became cut off from mankind, and that therefore this 
element of the legends of the flood expresses exactly the same 
notion as the legend of the catastrophe that followed the discovery 
of fire. The two groups of legends result from the way the 


Andaman Islander feels about the fire as being the one thing on 
which the society most completely depends for its welfare. 

The preceding analysis has shown that the legends relating 
to the origin of animals, whether through the action of fire, or by 
the flood, serve to express the social value of fire. If this inter- 
pretation be correct we have a close parallel to the explanation 
of the story of the origin of night. In both cases, it has been 
argued, what the legend really expresses is the way in which a 
particular phenomenon (fire, in one case, the alternation of day 
and night in the other) affects the life of the society and the 
sentiments on which that life depends. The legends of the 
catastrophe, however, obviously contain another element of 
importance, revealing as they do a certain way of thinking about 
the animals. This element has not yet been explained. The 
representation of the birds, etc., as ancestors is not confined to 
one particular legend or group of legends, but runs through 
them all. Its explanation is therefore better postponed until we 
come to deal with the general features of the mythology, and 
will then have to be undertaken. 

Let us now turn to the legends that concern Biliku {Puluga) 
and Tarai (JDerid), which are of capital importance in the 
Andaman mythology. The clue to the understanding of them 
lies in the Andamanese notions about the weather and the 
seasons. In the Andaman Islands the year may be divided 
into four seasons. There is the cool season lasting from the 
beginning of December to the middle of February; immediately 
following this is the hot season from February to the middle of 
May; then comes the rainy season, from May to the end of 
September; October and November constitute a short season to 
themselves. In the cool season the weather is uniformly cool ; 
there is very little rain, and storms are almost unknown ; the 
wind blows uniformly from the N.E. In the hot season there 
is little or no rain ; the wind is generally N.E., but may be 
variable ; summer lightning is frequent, but there are no violent 
storms except at the very end of the season. During the rainy 
season, after a short period of uncertain stormy weather with 
which it begins, the wind blows uniformly from the S.W. ; it 
rains heavily, sometimes every day for weeks together, but 


violent storms (cyclones) are very rare. Between the rainy 
season proper and the cool season there is a period of six 
or eight weeks in which the weather is unsettled ; the wind is 
variable; fine weather alternates with storms that are sometimes 
of terrific violence ; waterspouts are frequent ; it is at this 
season that violent cyclonic storms are likely to occur. This 
season is called by the Andamanese Khnil {Gumul oi Aka-Bea). 
We have seen in the last chapter that the word kimil denotes a 
condition of social danger, or of contact with the power possessed 
by all things that can affect the life and safety of the society. It 
is obviously in this sense, and not as meaning "hot," that it is 
applied to the season in question, for the months of October and 
November are fairly cool, certainly very much cooler than 
February and March. We shall find that this is an important 
point in connection with the Biliku myth. 

The life of the Andaman Islander is profoundly affected by 
the alternation of the seasons. There are, first of all, the violent 
cyclonic storms that occasionally occur. Such a storm may 
uproot the jungle for miles, making it impassable for years to 
come, and thus destroying some of the native hunting grounds. 
The wind is sometimes so violent as to tear every leaf from the 
trees in its path. While the storm lasts there is danger to the 
lives of the natives. An old man recounted to me how on the 
occasion of a violent cyclone he and the others of his village took 
refuge in the sea and on the open shore from the danger of falling 
trees, and remained there till the violence of the storm had 
abated. The usual name for a cyclone in Aka-Jeni is toko-poVy 
i.e. "falling wood" or "falling trees." Even if all the natives 
escape the danger of death or injury, there is still the extreme 
fear and discomfort of the experience. If a storm lasts for any 
length of time the natives, who are unable or afraid to go out 
hunting, have to do without food until it is over. Incidentally the 
storm may destroy their huts, canoes, and other property and 
thus cause loss that has to be made up by toil. 

The second important effect of the seasons on the life of the 
Andamanese is through the food supply. During the cool 
season, and the succeeding hot season, a number of vegetable 
foods, including the very important roots and some of the most 


prized fruits, are available. On the other hand, during these 
seasons the land animals are in poor condition. In the hot 
season, at any rate, lizards, snakes and the civet-cat are not 
eaten. Pigs are breeding and are in such poor condition that 
often a pig that has been killed is left in the jungle as being not 
good enough to eat. The hot season is pre-eminently the season 
of honey, which is so abundant that the natives are able to 
obtain much more than they can consume. In the rainy season 
there are few vegetable foods and very little honey, but on the 
other hand the jungle animals are in good condition and flesh 
food is abundant ; fish are more plentiful in this season than 
during the dry weather. In the Kimil season (October and 
November) the natives add to their food supply two varieties of 
grub (the larvae of the cicada and of a beetle) which are regarded 
as great delicacies. Roughly we can say that the rainy season is 
the season of flesh food, the Kimil season is the season of grubs, 
the cool season is the season of fruits and roots, and the hot 
season is the season of honey. 

By reference to the prevailing wind the year may be divided 
into two parts, the N.E. monsoon from November to May, and 
the S.W. monsoon from May to November. 

I propose to show that the Andaman Islanders express the 
social value of the phenomena of the weather and the seasons, 
i.e., the way these phenomena affect the social life and the social 
sentiments, by means of legends and beliefs relating to the two 
mythical beings whom they call Biliku and Tarai. Using the 
word personification in a sense to be defined later in the chapter, 
we may say that the Andamanese personify the weather and the 
seasons in the persons of Biliku and Tarai. Biliku is associated 
with the N.E. monsoon ; she lives in the N.E. ; the wind from 
that quarter is called "the Biliku wind"; to Biliku, therefore, 
belong the cool and the hot seasons, these being the seasons of 
the N.E. monsoon. Tarai is associated with the S.W. monsoon ; 
he lives in the S.W. ; the wind from that quarter is called " the 
Tarai wind," or, in Aka-Bea, simply Deria ; to Tarai therefore 
belongs the rainy season. It is possible to show that the 
Andaman Islanders associate with these two beings all the 
phenomena of the weather and the seasons, and are able to 

B. A. 23 


represent the changes of the latter as though they were the 
actions of human or anthropomorphic beings. 

In the mass of beliefs and stories relating to Biliku and Tarai 
there are some elements on which there is absolute agreement 
in all the tribes of the Great Andaman Division. I propose 
to treat these as being the most important elements. There is 
absolute unanimity, for instance, as to the connection of Biliku 
and Tarai with the N.E. and the S.W. respectively, and with the 
winds that blow from these two points of the compass. Further, 
this belief does not conflict in any way with any other behef of 
the Andamanese. There is similar unanimity in the beliefs that 
Biliku is angry at the digging up of yams, and at the melting of 
bees'-wax. There are other matters on which the agreement is 
fairly general but not absolute. For instance, there is a common 
belief that it was Biliku who first discovered fire, but there are 
also legends as to the origin of fire in which Biliku does not 
figure. I propose to treat such elements as these as being of 
secondary importance. Finally there are other elements with 
regard to which the beliefs of different tribes are not in agree- 
ment. For instance, in the South Andaman Puluga is regarded 
as male, while in the North Andaman Biliku is female. I 
propose to regard such elements as being of only minor im- 
portance, i.e., as not being closely connected with the central 
notion or notions expressed in the myth. 

Applying the strict method outlined above, we may begin by 
noting that there is complete unanimity in regard to the con- 
nection of Biliku and Tarai with the N.E. and the S.W. 
respectively, and therefore with the monsoons. No interpreta- 
tion of the myth can be adequate unless it sets out from this 
fact. The connection is so firmly fixed that it appears in the 
names of the winds themselves \ Even in this matter of 
the winds, however, there is a slight difference in the detail of 
the beliefs in different tribes. In the North Andaman it 
would seem that only the two principal winds are recognized ; 
the S.W. wind (more accurately W.S.W.) is called " the Tarai 

^ It appears also in geographical names. Ptihiga-V ar-7nugu, meaning 'the Puluga 
front' is the name of a part of the Archipelago facing the N.E. and means 'the side 
facing Puluga.' 


wind" (not, be it noted, "the wind of Tarai")\ the N.E. (or 
more accurately N.N.E.) wind is called "the Biliku wind." 
These two winds are by far the most important, as the former 
blows steadily throughout the rainy season and the latter blows 
with almost equal steadiness throughout a good part of the cool and 
hot seasons. In the Aka-Bea and Akar-Bale tribes the general 
belief seems to be precisely the same as in the North Andaman. 
Only the two principal winds are considered to be of importance 
and one is associated with Deria and the other with Puluga. In 
these two tribes, as in the North Andaman, practically no notice 
is taken of the existence of winds from other quarters. In the 
A-Pucikwar tribe there is a notable difference, of great im- 
portance to the true interpretation of the legend. There is 
a dual division of the winds ; the S.W. wind is called Teria ; the 
other winds (of which a number are recognized) are all called 
Bilik. Thus Bilik is a generic name for a number of winds, 
namely for all the northerly or easterly winds, including not only 
the N.E., but also the N.W. and S.E. winds. The S.W. wind is 
called by a simple name, Teria, or as it would be better rendered 
in English " the Teria'.' The other winds are called by com- 
pound names such as Metepur Bilik, Kqico Bilik, etc., which we 
can only translate as "the N.E. Bilik^' "the Y.d.'sX Bilik" etc. 

Two things of importance are shown by the consideration of 
these facts. The first is that there is a sense in which it may be 
said that the Andaman Islanders personify the winds in the 
persons of Biliku and Tarai; they apply to the natural 
phenomenon a name which is also the name of a mythological 
person, and they apply it directly and not in a possessive form, 
i.e., they say "the Bilik" or "the Biliku wind" and not '' Biliku' s 
wind." The second is that only the S.W. wind is associated with 
Tarai and all the other winds are associated with Biliku. 

The last point is one of considerable importance in the 
interpretation of the myth. If we divide the year by reference 
to the prevailing winds, then the rainy season, with the excep- 
tion of its beginning and its end, belongs to the S.W. wind ; the 
hot season (save its end) and the cool season may be regarded 
as belonging to the N.E. wind, though the wind may be variable 
in the hot season; there remain two portions of the year, at the 



change of the monsoon, when the wind is variable, which cannot 
be classified as belonging strictly to the S.W. or to the N.E. 
wind. The fact that all these variable winds are denoted in the 
A-Pucikwar tribe by the name Bilik shows that in this tribe 
they are all classified with the N.E. wind. In this way the year 
is divided into two slightly unequal parts, one belonging to Teria 
or Tarai including the whole of the rainy season except the end 
and the very beginning, the other belonging to Bilik {Biliku} 
including the season, the cool season, the hot season, and 
even the first few days of the rainy season. This strict division 
only appears in the A -Pucikwar tribe, but it will be shown that an 
approximation to the same notion is found in the other tribes. 

There is general agreement in all the tribes in the belief that 
storms are due to Biliku or Tarai. Both of them send rain and 
thunder and lightning, but whenever mention is made in the 
legends of a violent storm it is always Biliku who is mentioned 
as causing it, and never by any chance Tarai. Thus, in regard 
to this matter of storms, it is evident that Biliku is more 
important than Tarai, and this is only one example of the pre- 
ponderance of Biliku over her consort. This preponderance 
will need to be explained as one of the essentials of the myth\ 

We have already seen how the Andaman Islander represents 
any natural phenomenon having negative social value as though 
it were the result of the action of a person in anger, this being 
the one anti-social passion with which he is most familiar in 
his own life. Thus the withdrawing of the light of the moon 
after the full is explained as being due to the anger of the moon. 
The negative social value of a violent storm is obvious. In 
accordance with the general principles of his mythology the 
Andaman Islander therefore explains the storm as being due 
to the anger of a personal mythical being. But storms are 
intimately connected with the winds, so that it must be Biliku 
and Tarai (in whom the winds are personified) who are respon- 
sible for the storms. Further, in the Andamans, violent storms 
are very rare except at two special periods of the year, at the 

^ Although it is generally believed that storms (or more exactly, violent storms or 
cyclones) are the results of the anger of Biliku, yet there is a conflicting belief that 
storms are made by the spirits, particularly the spirits of the sea. 


change of the monsoon. This gives a further ground of associa- 
tion with Biliku and Tarai between whom the seasons are 
divided. We have seen that in classifying the winds the natives 
(of one tribe at any rate) associate with Tarai only the steady 
S.W. wind which brings not cyclones and violent storms but 
steady rain, while all the other winds are associated with Biliku. 
If this be so it is clear that a cyclone, with its wind veering from 
one quarter to another, must be the work of Biliku. Further, if 
the Biliku season be regarded as including all the periods of 
variable northerly and easterly winds as well as the period of the 
steady N.E., then we can say that it is only in the Biliku period 
that violent storms are likely to occur. It is evident therefore 
that an examination of the natural phenomena themselves gives 
us an adequate reason for the preponderance of Biliku over 
Tarai in the legends. This will be made even more evident as 
we proceed. 

Another law of the Andaman mythology is that a person, 
such as the moon, is never angry without cause. There are a 
number of actions that are believed by the Andamanese to 
cause the anger of Biliku ; of these there are three of extreme 
importance, all the others being certainly of much less im- 
portance. It is necessary, therefore, to examine these three 
carefully and find their meaning. 

There is absolute agreement in all the tribes with regard to 
the belief that Biliku is angry and sends bad weather when 
bees'-wax is melted or burnt. The season of honey is the hot 
season from February to May, During the rainy season scarcely 
any honey is to be found and that only of the inferior (black) 
variety. It is clear therefore that honey belongs particularly to 
the Biliku portion of the year. During the hot season honey is 
abundant and large quantities are collected. As the natives 
make use of the wax, and as this is useless till it has been 
melted, this is the special season of the melting of bees'-wax. 
At the beginning of the season the Biliku wind blows calmly 
from the N.N.E. As the season draws to a close the wind 
becomes variable, uncertain, and in some years violent storms 
occur ushering in the rains of the S.W. monsoon. Year after 
year the wax-melting season comes to a close in stormy weather. 


Now stormy weather and the anger of Biliku are, for the Anda- 
man Islander, one and the same thing, so that to say that the 
anger of Biliku follows the melting of bees'-wax is in one sense 
simply a statement of actual observable fact. 

Another belief about which there is absolute unanimity in 
all parts of the Islands is that Biliku is angry when certain 
plants are cut down or dug up. These plants include some of 
the most valuable vegetable foods of the Andamanese, such as 
the yams and the pith of the Caryota palm. Amongst the roots 
and fruits associated with Biliku there are one or two that were 
not botanically identified. All of them, however, about which I 
was able to obtain any information whatever, are available as 
food during the cool and hot seasons, and either not at all or in 
very small quantities during the rainy season. On the other 
hand, of the vegetable foods that are available during the rainy 
season, not one is ever mentioned as being in any way connected 
with Biliku. Further, amongst all the foods of the cool and hot 
seasons only those are intimately connected with Biliku which 
begin to be available during the Kimil season. A few examples 
may be mentioned. The yams and other edible roots are not 
found at all in the rainy season, but the tubers begin to form in 
the Kimil season (October and November) and small quantities 
of these roots are available for food at that time. By the time 
the cool season has set in the roots become abundant, and they 
continue to be found until well on into the hot season. All these 
roots are regarded as being specially connected with Biliku and 
are spoken of as her foods. The same thing applies to the 
Caryota sobolifera of which the pith is eaten either raw or 
cooked. The pith begins to form in the Kimil season, and this 
highly prized food is available right through the cool season. 
The fruit of the Cycas, which is another of those belonging to 
Biliku, also begins to ripen at the beginning of the cool weather. 
As regards the Entada scandens, Kurz, in his Burmese Flora^ 
mentions it as seeding in the "cold season." I neglected to take 
note of the relation of this plant to the seasons, but the state- 
ment of Kurz may be relied on. Thus it is seen that the 
vegetable foods that are associated with Biliku are those that 
begin to be available for food during the Kimil season and are 


abundant during the cool season. Now the Kimil season, which 
is really the opening of the N.E. or Biliku monsoon, is the 
season at which cyclonic storms are likely to occur. Here again 
therefore, as in the case of bees'-wax, there is a definite ground 
of association in familiar natural phenomena. Year after year, 
as these foods begin to ripen and to be eaten, the islands are 
visited with stormy weather, sometimes of exceptional violence. 
When the Andaman Islander says that the stormy weather which 
is the sign of the anger oi Biliku follows the digging up of yams 
and the cutting down of the Caryota palm or the gathering of the 
seeds of the Cycas or Entada, he is stating what is an actual fact. 

The case of these vegetable foods is in one way different from 
that of bees'-wax. The melting of the wax goes on for some 
weeks before the anger of Biliku is finally aroused, when storms 
come to punish the offenders, and the change of season cuts 
short the supply of honey. In the case of the roots, etc., it 
would seem that it is only the first step that counts. The 
danger lies in the beginning of the season. Once the anger of 
Biliku has burst forth the bad weather ceases, the danger is 
past, and weeks of fine weather ensue, during which the natives 
may eat freely of the foods in question without fear of con- 
sequences. In this connection considerable importance may be 
attached to a statement made to me on more than one occasion, 
to the effect that the most efficient way of stopping a storm is to 
go into the forest and destroy the plants that belong to Biliku^ 
i.e., do the very things that make her angry. We may apply this 
to the events of the Kimil season. The natives begin to dig up 
yams and collect other vegetable foods, and thereupon Biliku 
becomes angry and stormy weather follows. All that the natives 
have to do is to show sufficient persistence in continuing to eat 
yams, etc., and the anger oi Biliku is bound to subside and the 
stormy weather to cease. 

There is a third belief that is generally accepted in all parts 
of the Great Andaman, that Biliku is angry if a cicada be killed, 
or if a noise be made while the cicada is singing in the morning 
or the evening. The interpretation of this belief is made difficult 
by the fact that there is also an association between the cicada 
and the day and night. Thus Mr Man states that the prohibition 


against making a noise at dawn (while the cicada is singing) is 
associated not with Puluga but with the sun\ 

The grub of the cicada is eaten during the Kimil season, and 
at no other time of the year. Here the association is simple 
enough. The killing of the cicada (grub) takes place only 
during a brief season, and this is the season when cyclones 
occur. However, the grub of a beetle is eaten at the same 
season and yet I never heard of any connection between Biliku 
and this other grub. Certainly if there is a belief in such a 
connection it is very much less important than the belief relating 
to the cicada. Further, there is the belief that if the imago of 
the cicada be killed or if a noise be made while the cicada 
is singing, Biliku will be angry and will send bad weather, 
which is obviously not simply the result of the custom of eating 
the grub of the cicada during the Kimil season. 

The relation of the cicada to Biliku is almost certainly due 
to the connection of the insect with the seasons. Unfortunately, 
not then recognizing the importance of the matter, I did not, 
while in the Andamans, take particular note of the relation of 
the life-cycle of the cicada to the revolution of the seasons, and 
I am reluctant to trust to vague memories of matters to which I 
did not pay special attention. Mr Man states, apparently on the 
authority of a native, that during the cold and dry seasons the 
cicada is seldom seen (and is therefore presumably also seldom 
heard). What I believe to be the life-cycle of the insect is as 
follows. During the rainy season only the adult insects are to 
be found. They lay their eggs at some period during the rainy 
season, possibly towards the end. In October and November 
the eggs have developed into pupae, and it is these that the 
natives eat ; but apparently the adult insects, or some of them, 
still survive at this time and are to be seen and heard. By 
about December the last of the adult insects die out and the 
grubs have not yet attained the adult form, so that there is 
a period during which no adult insects are either seen or heard. 
It is probable that the new generation makes its first appearance 
in adult form as soon as the first rains of the rainy season 

1 Page 154. 


The essential point, on which we can base an interpretation 
of the myth, is that the cicada is not seen or heard during the 
fine weather (December to March). It probably, as stated above, 
makes its reappearance just at the period of the stormy weather 
that ushers in the rainy season. Similarly, it does not dis- 
appear until after the end of the stormy period of the Kimil 
season. (I have certainly heard and seen the insect in October, 
and to the best of my recollection in November also.) Thus the 
cicada is definitely associated with the part of the year including 
the rainy season and the two stormy periods at its beginning 
and end. I believe that this is the fundamental fact that 
explains the Andamanese beliefs about the connection of the 
insect with the weather. 

I was told of a ceremony that was held at the end of the 
Kimil season in the Akar-Bale tribe (and possibly in other 
tribes also) the purpose of which was said to be to ensure 
fine weather for some months and which is called "Killing the 
cicada." The ceremony consists of doing the very thing that 
is believed to produce storms, viz., making a noise while the 
cicada is singing in the evening. As soon as the cicadse begin 
to sing all the persons in camp make as much noise as 
they can hy banging bamboos on the ground, striking the 
sounding-board, or hammering on the sides of canoes, thus 
making just the kinds of noise that are said to be most disliked 
by the cicada. According to the statement of my informant this 
ceremony results in "killing" all the cicadae so that they are 
not heard again for many weeks, and while this silence lasts fine 
weather is assured. The meaning of this little ceremony is 
plain when we recall the fact that though the digging up of yams 
and the cutting down of the Caryota palm anger Biliku and 
result in storms yet sufiEicient persistence in these actions, and 
therefore in any others that are displeasing to Biliku, results in 
dispelling the bad weather. Thus it is seen that although the 
matter is a little more complicated, yet the belief in the con- 
nection of the cicada with Biliku and with bad weather can be 
explained on exactly the same lines as the beliefs about bees'- 
wax and vegetable foods. The fact that the same explanation 
can be given of the three most important prohibitions connected 


with Biliku gives a high degree of probability to the interpreta- 
tion here offered. These three beliefs are the only ones of real 
importance. I am unable to explain the connection of Biliku 
with the species of fish, the bird and the two kinds of wood 
mentioned on page 156. In the North Andaman there is 
a definite association between Biliku and spiders, the generic 
name for "spider" being biliku. I believe that this could be 
explained on the same basis as the connection with the cicada, 
i.e., through the connection of spiders with the changes of the 
seasons, but as I unfortunately neglected to take note of the 
habits of the spiders of the Andamans I cannot speak with any 
certainty and therefore prefer not to enter into a discussion of 
the subjects 

The explanation that I have to offer of these beliefs relating 
to Biliku and to the things that offend her is that they are 
simply the statement in a special form of observable facts 
of nature. The rainy season comes to an end, the wind becomes 
variable, yams and other vegetable products begin to ripen and 
are used for food, and stormy weather comes, some years 
bringing cyclones of exceptional violence. Then follows a 
period of steady N.E. winds with fine weather and abundance 
of vegetable foods, during which the noise of the cicada is not to 
be heard. Then comes the honey season, when everyone is busy 
collecting honey and melting bees'-wax. The wind becomes 
very variable, storms come, the fine weather comes to an end 
and the rainy season begins again. These facts affect the 
feelings of the Andaman Islander and he expresses his impres- 
sions by regarding all these happenings as if they were the 
actions of an anthropomorphic being. The vegetable products, 
the cicada, and the honey all belong to Biliku. When the yams 
are dug up she is angry, or in other words, storms occur; a storm 

^ The application of the name biliku to the spider is clearly a minor motive, and 
probably a late accretion. The name of the N.E. monsoon is the same in all the 
divisions of the Andamans about which we have information, with dialectic differences 
only. In the Little Andaman the form of the name is Ohiga, and the same name is 
given to the monitor lizard. Presumably, therefore, there was originally one name 
throughout the Andamans for the N.E. monsoon {Oluga, Puluga, Bilik, Bilika, 
Biliku) and later this name was applied to the spider in the North Andaman and to 
the monitor lizard in the Little Andaman. It may be noted that the name of the 
monitor lizard varies from one language to another in the Great Andaman. 


is the anger of Biliku. The cessation of the song of the cicada 
removes one of the possible causes of the anger of Biliku, and 
therefore marks the period of fine weather. That anger appears 
once more when the natives busy themselves with melting 

It may be noted that these beliefs about Biliku give an 
expression of the social value of honey and bees'-wax and 
of vegetable foods such as yams. The Andaman Islands provide 
few fruits containing natural sugar. Yet the natives are in- 
ordinately fond of sweet things ; they greatly enjoy the sugar 
that they now obtain from the Settlement of Port Blair. Honey, 
which was almost their only sweet food in former times, was 
therefore very greatly valued. Apart from the yams and other 
foods associated with Biliku there are very few productions of 
the Andamans containing starch in a palatable form. To the 
native who has been living during the rainy season almost 
entirely on meat and fish, the starchy foods of the stormy season 
(yams, Caryota, etc.) are of great value, and they are very highly 
prized. Thus the foods associated with Biliku all have a high value. 

We all know how the value of an object is increased if, in 
order to obtain it, we have to make some considerable effort 
or sacrifice, or put ourselves in danger of some evil. Reversing 
this mental process, the Andaman Islander expresses his sense 
of the value of honey and yams by the statement that to obtain 
them he must be prepared to risk the anger of Biliku with its 
results. It was shown in the last chapter that the value of food 
in general is expressed in the belief that all food is more or less 
dangerous to eat, and that ritual precautions must be observed 
if the danger is to be avoided. Here in the Biliku myth, we 
have a further example of the same sort of mental process, in 
relation not to all foods in general but to a few foods of special 
value. Yet another example may be given. Roast pork is highly 
relished by the natives, and they believe that the roasting of pork 
offends certain spirits of the sky and is therefore dangerous ^ 

^ It is to be noted that these tabus connected with Biliku are not absolute prohibi- 
tions; they are beliefs that if certain things are done Biliku will be angry (i.e., there 
may be storms) ; if you do these things you must risk the danger. It is exactly the 
same with the roasting of pork. 


Returning now to the subject of Biliku as the sender of 
cyclones, it is necessary for the argument, even at the risk of 
repetition, to show (i) that this is by far the most important 
attribute of Biliku^ and (2) that it follows immediately from her 
connection with the N.E. monsoon. 

Taking the second point first, we may note, in the first place* 
that while Tarai is associated with the steady S.W. wind which 
blows with very little variation for months at a time, Biliku is 
associated with the variable winds of the hot season. Now a 
characteristic of a cyclonic storm is the way in which the wind 

The line represents the position of the Andaman Islands. The larger arrows show 
the direction in which the cyclonic disturbance is moving. The smaller arrows show 
the direction of the wind. 

veers from one quarter to another. Further, as most of the 
cyclones that cross the Andamans travel from the south-east in 
a north-westerly direction, and the movement of the cyclone is 
in a counter-clockwise direction, the first wind of a cyclonic 
storm when it strikes the islands comes from the north-east. 
This may be seen from the accompanying diagram. It is only 
at the very end of the storm, when the storm centre has passed, 
that the wind blows from the south-west. Thus it is clear that 
the association of cyclones with Biliku and not with Tarai 
is determined by the nature of the phenomena which the Biliku- 
Tarai myth sets out to explain. 


That the most important attribute of Biliku is her connection 
with the cyclones is evident when we consider the legends in 
which she is mentioned. In most of the legends in which her 
name occurs^ she is spoken of as being angry with the ancestors, 
and we know that a cyclone and the anger of Biliku are, for the 
Andaman Islander, one and the same thing. In some of the 
stories mention is made of a great storm that Biliku sent which 
nearly destroyed the world. All through the legends we find 
her pictured as a being whose anger is to be feared, who has the 
power to destroy human life and human property. Tarai is 
never mentioned in this way, for the rains of the south-west 
monsoon themselves have no such power. 

We are now in a position to compare the characters of 
Biliku and Tarai and explain their relative positions in the 
myth. The reason for the preponderance of Biliku lies in the 
fact that it is she who sends cyclones, while Tarai sends nothing 
more than heavy showers of rain. Tarai is never responsible 
for the destruction of life and property, whereas Biliku is. Thus 
the preponderance of Biliku follows from the essentials of the 
myth. Secondly, Tarai is constant, ever the same, whereas 
Biliku is changeable. The rainy season of one year is exactly 
like that of another, and during the time it lasts the weather is 
consistent throughout. On the contrary, one year the Biliku 
season brings a terrific storm, and another year it is much 
less violent, while, from day to day during certain parts of 
the Biliku season the weather is unsettled, so that you cannot 
tell what the morrow will bring with it. It is obvious that this 
uncertainty about the actions of Biliku, the fact that she cannot 
altogether be reckoned with, would tend to make her of greater 
importance in the eyes of the Andamanese than her consort 

Let us now consider the question of the sex of Biliku. On 
this matter there is a lack of agreement. In the North Andaman 
Tarai is declared to be male and Biliku female. It can readily 
be shown that this results from the position of Biliku and Tarai 

1 See, for instance, the Aka-Jeru legend on pages 197 — 198, the Aka-Kede on 
page 200 and that from the Akar-Bale tribe on pages 200 — 201, and also the legends 
on pages 207, 208. 


as regulating the seasons. Tarai rules over the rainy season, in 
which the chief food is the flesh of animals of the land and of 
the sea ; it is the business of men to provide flesh-food. On the 
contrary Biliku rules over the seasons in which the chief foods 
are vegetable products of different kinds ; it is the business 
of women to provide such foods. It is only men who go out 
hunting for pigs or turtle or who harpoon or shoot fish, and 
it is always the men who attend to the first part of the cooking 
of pig, turtle and dugong ; it is the women who dig up the yams 
and collect the fruits and seeds, and it is the women also who 
cook them. There is a very real sense, then, in which flesh 
foods may be called the foods of men, and vegetable foods may 
be called the foods of women, and, since flesh foods are the foods 
of Tarai and vegetable foods are the foods of Biliku, there is a 
sound reason for calling Tarai male and Biliku female. 

This way of thinking of Biliku as female is in harmony with 
her character as outlined above. Women (in the Andamans) 
are notoriously uncertain, changeable creatures. You can 
always reckon fairly well what a man will do, but not so with 
a woman. Moreover, when the Andaman Islander wishes to 
picture to himself a pair of closely associated beings, it is 
natural that he should compare them to the most closely 
associated couple with which he is familiar, — husband and wife. 
This tendency leads him to make the sun and moon man and 
wife in many of his legends, and it may well be expected to have 
its influence on the Biliku myth also. 

In the South Andaman however, both Puluga and Daria 
are said to be male. It can be shown that this view is also 
appropriate in its way. The Akar-Bale say that Puluga and 
Daria were once friends, but have quarrelled and now live 
at opposite ends of the earth and are perpetually renewing their 
quarrel. Daria has things to himself for a few months (the 
S.W. monsoon) and sends his wind ; then Puluga makes an 
attack on him ; some weeks of unsettled weather ensue while 
they are fighting, until Daria is beaten and Ptiluga takes over 
the control of the weather and sends the N.E. wind. By and 
by, however, Daria shows himself again and there is another 
quarrel, with its unsettled and stormy weather, which ends in the 


defeat of Puliiga and the reinstatement for a period of Daria. 
Even the bald language in which it is stated does not quite hide 
the poetical grandeur of this conception of the world as the arena 
of two battling giants in a never-ending quarrel. Those who 
have lived through a tropical cyclone with its wind changing 
from one quarter to another, its consummate violence, its sudden 
onslaught, its pause (that is felt to be merely a pause) as the 
centre of the disturbance reaches and passes you, and then its 
sudden renewal of the mad combat with the wind coming now 
from the opposite quarter, cannot but recognize in the Akar-Bale 
myth a successful attempt to describe such a storm in figurative 

Such a combat could only be pictured by the Andamanese 
as taking place between two men, and the myth in this form 
therefore necessarily involves the belief that both Puluga and 
Daria are male. It is evident, therefore, that this view has some 
justification, that it does enable the Andaman Islander to 
express the feelings and impressions evoked in him by the 
phenomena of the weather. I venture to think, however, that 
the southern myth is not quite so satisfactory as the northern 
one, does not translate quite so well all the different features of 
the natural phenomena with which it deals\ 

A most important element of the myth is the connection of 
Biliku {Puluga) with fire. In all the tribes there are legends 
that represent Biliku as the first possessor of fire, which was, 
according to some versions, given by her to the ancestors, and 
according to others stolen from her by one of them. There can 
be no doubt that these legends owe their origin to the connection 
between Biliku the storm-sender and lightning. 

There are several different beliefs about the lightning. 
According to one of these the lightning {Ele) and the thunder 
{Korude) are persons, who produce the phenomena of the same 
name. Another belief is that thunder and lightning are pro- 
duced by Biliku and Tarai. On the whole, it would seem that 

1 In a paper in Folk-lore, vol. xx, 1909, I put forward the hypothesis that 
probably at one time all the tribes of the Andamans regarded Biliku {Puluga) as 
female, and Tarai {Daria) as male. I am still inclined to think that there is some 
evidence for this, but a discussion of what the Andamanese beliefs may have been in 
the past is entirely outside the scope of this chapter and is therefore omitted. 


the latter belief is the one which is most frequently present to 
the minds of the natives. A man seeing lightning in the sky- 
will say, according to the season, the prevailing wind, etc., Biliku 
catobom, or Tarai catoboin ; " Biliku (or Tarai) is at work." There 
are different accounts, however, of the way in which Biliku makes 
the lightning. One belief is that it is a fire-brand flung by her 
through the sky; a second is that it is a mother-of-pearl shell 
{be) similarly flung ; yet a third statement is that she produces 
the lightning by striking a pearl shell {be) on a red stone. 

There is no doubt that the Andamanese regard lightning as 
fire ; the charring of trees struck by it is sufficient to convince 
them of this. Thus lightning and the sun are the only two 
natural fires that they know. (With the relation of Biliku to 
the sun I shall deal later.) As the wielder of lightning Biliku 
thus becomes the possessor of fire. The simplest of the different 
beliefs, the one following immediately from the natural phe- 
nomena, would be, therefore, that which makes the lightning a 
fire-brand. This is, on the whole, the one that is most usually 
expressed, at any rate in the South Andaman. 

The explanation of lightning as a shell depends not only upon 
the pearly lustre of this kind of shell, but also on other features 
of it. The shell in question {be) is used by women alone, and its 
use is confined to slicing yams and other vegetables in pre- 
paring them for food. Its association with Bilikzt therefore 
follows from the view of Biliku as female and as being especially 
associated with yams and other vegetable foods. Granting this 
fundamental connection, then the brightness of the shell, its 
keen edge and the way in which it can be made to skim through 
the air, will explain the statement that lightning is just such a 
shell thrown by Biliku. In the South Andaman, where Puluga 
is regarded as male, this belief about the pearl shell would be out 
of harmony with the rest of the myth, and, as we should expect, 
it is not found. However, the Aka-Bea word for lightning 
{be-iya^ the -iya or -ya being a suffix) suggests that they may 
have had a similar belief in the past\ 

In the North Andaman the two views of lightning as a fire- 
brand and as a shell are both held, because they both, in 

1 The stem be seems to be connected with the idea of cutting. 


different ways, fit in well with the rest of the myth. There is 
yet a third view in which these two contradictory beliefs are, as 
it were, reconciled. This is that Biliku produces lightning by 
striking a pearl shell against a red stone. 

In the North Andaman the action of throwing a shell or a 
fire-brand is regarded as typical of Biliku ; this is the way in 
which she is pictured by the native, and in which she would 
doubtless be portrayed if the Andamanese had a pictorial art. 
In the dance described in an earlier chapter, in which the dancer 
gave representations of various mythical heings, . Bi/iku was 
represented by the dancer holding a shell in his hand and 
dancing round threatening to throw the shell at the spectators. 

The representation of Biliku or Puluga as throwing her 
lightning in the form of a fire-brand or a shell appears in several 
of the legends of the origin of fire, and in particular in the legend 
of which different versions are found in all parts of the islands 
that tells how the kingfisher stole fire from Biliku and how the 
latter flung a fire-brand or a shell at the thief. 

The most usual form of the fire legend, and the only one 
that .1 ever heard, is that in which the fire is stolen. Mr Man 
has recorded a version in which Puluga is represented as giving 
the fire to the ancestors. Considerable importance attaches to 
this motive of the story as it reveals to us the way in which the 
Andamanese usually think of Biliku and of their own relation to 
her. She is not, so far as these stories go, a benefactress who by 
the invention of fire has earned the gratitude of men, but rather 
a person with whom the human society, both in the time of the 
ancestors and at the present day, is in a condition of opposition. 
Though Biliku had fire, yet she kept it for herself and it was 
only obtained from her by stealth. She was angry when her 
fire was stolen and tried to punish the offender. 

This opposition between Biliku and the ancestors is shown 
in other legends. In some of the stories she is represented not 
as living with the ancestors, but as living on one side of a 
narrow strait while the ancestors lived on the other, as in the 
Akar-Bale and A-Pucikwar legends. She is thus separated 
from the ancestors in the minds of the natives. In the Aka- 
Kede legend the ancestors eat the foods that Bilika regards as 

B. A. 24 


specially belonging to her, and she kills them. As a result the 
ancestors join together and kill Bilika. In the Akar-Bale 
version something of the same sort appears ; Puluga is always 
getting angry with the ancestors because they eat vegetable 
foods, and in his anger he destroys their huts and other property 
(as a cyclone does, and as an Andaman Islander is sometimes 
known to do in a fit of temper) ; at last the ancestors send him 
away out of the world. In the A-Pucikwar legend Bilik goes 
away from the world in anger because the ancestors steal his 
fire. In the Aka-Jern version Biliku eats up all the food of the 
ancestors, and so they go away and leave her; she then destroys 
them with her shells (lightning) and finally perishes in an 
attempt to cross the sea on a stone. All these legends seem to 
express much the same thing in different ways, namely the 
existence of a condition of hostility between Biliku and human 
beings, based on the fact that the latter venture to make use of 
the things (yams, etc.) that Biliku regards as peculiarly her 
property. There can be no doubt that this is the usual way in 
which the Andamanese conceive the relation between Biliku and 
the ancestors, and therefore, since the ancestors represent the 
society in its beginnings, between Biliku and themselves. This 
relation is quite in agreement with what we have seen to be the 
essential basis of the myth. The natives obtain from the N.E. 
monsoon things highly valued, such as yams and honey, but they 
are given as it were grudgingly after a period of storms, and 
finally taken away in another period of storms. 

This view of Biliku as hostile to mankind is not, however, 
absolutely universal if we are to accept Mr Man's account of the 
myths of the South Andaman. Mr Man describes Ptduga as 
the creator of the world and the beneficent ruler of mankind. 
Although I could not find a native who held exactly the same 
views about Puluga as those that Mr Man represents as being 
the views commonly held in the tribes he studied {Aka-Bea and 
A-Pucikwar), yet there is no doubt that at times, and more 
particularly in the southern tribes, the natives do regard Puluga 
as the benefactor and even the creator of the human race\ 

^ In dealing with the account given by Mr Man of the Andaman mythology it is 
necessary to remember that he was undoubtedly influenced by a very strong desire to 


The representation of Biliku as hostile to mankind depends 
upon her position as the angry storm-sender, and this, as the 
legends show, does seem to be the more usual way of regarding 
her. But there is another and contrary aspect of Biliku. The 
revolution of the seasons brings to the Andamanese new 
supplies of relished foods, — the grubs of the Kiniil season, the 
yams and honey of the cool and hot seasons. One of the 
Andamanese names for the season of the N.E. monsoon means 
*' the season of abundance." Therefore Biliku, as the personifi- 
cation of this season, is herself the giver of good things. This 
aspect finds a partial expression in the legends. Biliku is 
regarded as having created or discovered the use of all the 
natural productions associated with her. (In one legend it 
is Perjido, the son of Biliku, who discovers honey with his 
mother's help.) She thus occupies a position similar to that of 
the other ancestors, towards whom the men of the present feel 
grateful for the benefits they have bestowed on mankind. This 
view of Biliku as benefactress is often extended in the North 
Andaman to the belief that it was she who invented all the 
arts now practised by women, and there are traces of a belief 
that it was her son Perjido who was similarly responsible for the 
arts practised by men. 

This view of Biliku as a benefactress, although it conflicts to 
some extent with the view of her as on the whole hostile to 
mankind, yet, since it springs from the essential basis of the 
myth, cannot be overlooked. During the stormy season the 
Andaman Islander may well forget every aspect of Biliku save 
that she is responsible for the storms of which he goes in fear, 
but during the fine weather of the N.E. monsoon, when there is 
no longer any fear of a violent storm and when he is enjoying 
an abundance of the good things that he regards as especially 
belonging to Biliku, his feeling towards her must be of a very 
different nature ; she is then the being who gives him the fine 
weather, the relished foods. Thus, contrary though they be, 

show that the beliefs of the Andamanese about Puluga were really fundamentally 
the same as the beliefs of the Christian about his God. It may be taken as certain 
that he did not consciously allow this wish to affect his record of the Andaman beliefs, 
but it is very improbable that it did not unconsciously have a great deal of influence 
both on Mr Man and on his informants. 

24 — 2 


these two aspects of Biliku are both integral parts of the 

But Biliku is also the first possessor of fire, and we have 
seen that fire is regarded by the Andamanese as the source of 
the life of society, and therefore, in a way, of all life. Biliku as 
the source from which comes the fire is also the source of life. 
This view of Biliku is certainly to be found in all parts of the 
islands, though it has been developed more in the South than in 
the North. Biliku thus becomes responsible for the beginning of 
the society, and since the whole universe centres in the society, 
of the whole universe. She becomes the being who created or 
arranged the order in which men live. 

For the honour of this position Biliku has, however, a 
competitor. Besides the lightning there is another natural 
source of fire, the sun. We find therefore two different (and 
contrary) developments of the myth of the beginning of the 
world. In one of these the sun is associated with Biliku, is 
regarded as belonging to her or made by her. For instance, in 
an Aka-Kede legend, she is stated to have made the sun by 
throwing a flaming brand into the sky. By this means Biliku 
becomes the sole source of fire and therefore of life. This is the 
position that Puluga occupies in the versions of the legends 
recorded by Mr Man. In those legends Puluga gives fire to the 
first human beings by making the sun come down to earth and 
ignite a pile of wood. The alternative development makes the 
sun independent of Bilikit and it is then the sun, or a mythical 
person associated directly with the sun, who becomes the maker 
of the world, the source of life. Unfortunately, I did not obtain 
much detailed information about this development of the myth. 
In the North Andaman the being named Cava is associated with 
the sun and with fine weather, and is certainly sometimes regarded 
as the maker of the world. In the South Andaman it is Tomo who 
is associated with the sun. Men and women, when they die, go to 
live with Tomo in the sky. It is Tomo who is responsible for all 
things being as they are. He was the first being; it was he 
who arranged the order of nature; and similarly it was he who 
created the social order, so that a question as to why some 
custom is observed is often answered by saying that it was 


Tomo who made it so. In Mr Man's account Tomo is degraded 
to the position of being merely the first man made by Puluga, 
but in the accounts that were given to me by the natives of the 
Akar-Bale and A-Pucikwar tribes Tomo was a rival of Puluga ; 
sometimes one and sometimes the other was spoken of as being 
the supreme maker of all things. An Akar-Bale man of very 
high intelligence, who had been educated as a Christian, in 
trying to explain to me statements about Tomo made by 
another Akar-Bale who was regarded as an authority on the 
legends of his tribe, said that Tomo was the same thing to the 
Akar-Bale that God is to the Christian. When I asked him if 
.it was not rather Puluga who was the Andaman equivalent of 
God, he said that some people might think so, but that according 
to the old man to whom I was talking it was Tomo and not 
Puluga who occupied the position ^ 

There is only one more point that needs to be discussed, and 
that is the connection of Biliku with the spirits. It is clear that 
Biliku and Tarai must be distinguished from the spirits {Lau), 
yet at the same time Biliku is brought into relation with the 
spirits by the existence of two alternative explanations of bad 
weather. One of the explanations is that storms are due to 
Biliku, while the other is that they are due to the spirits, 
particularly the spirits of the sea. Both these beliefs, con- 
tradictory as they seem, are held by the Andamanese. The 
connection of the spirits with the weather is due to the fact that 

^ To complete the discussion of this part of the subject it would be necessary to 
deal with many points in the legends of the real meaning of which I do not feel 
satisiied. I have, for instance, given no explanation of the position of Perjido in the 
Biliku- Tarai myth, although this is probably an important matter. Nor have I traced 
to its source the connection of Biliku (with her net, and her hole, or cave, in which 
she shuts herself up to sleep and from which she comes out to bring rain and storm) 
with the spider. Besides Tomo, Biliku has yet another competitor for the position of 
control over the fine weather of the hot season, namely the snake, or-cubi (wara-jobo), 
which is regarded as being in some way the guardian of honey and of fine weather. 
There are legends that show the connection of this snake with honey (page 227) and 
the same connection is shown in the honey-eating ceremony (page 105). According 
to Mr Man, when the natives of the South Andaman see a dark cloud approaching 
and they do not wish it to rain they threaten Puluga that they will call up the 
wara-jobo to bite him. The snake, like other snakes, is only to be seen during the 
hot weather of the honey season. It may be remembered that it is from this snake 
that the pattern used in decorating the body with white clay is named. 


the weather is a thing that can limit the activity of the society, 
and we saw in the last chapter that there is a tendency to 
associate with the spirits of the dead all things that in any way 
interfere with the smooth progress of social life. When it is said 
that a storm can be stopped by swishing arrows in the sea, or by 
placing in the sea a piece of Anadendron creeper, it is to the 
spirits of the sea, who are afraid of arrows and of the Anadendron, 
that the storm is attributed, and not to Biliku. 

In the A-Pucikwar tribe I found an association oi Bilik with 
the spirits. One man of this tribe (a medicine-man or dreamer) 
stated that the Bilik are a distinct class of spirits, distinct from 
the Lmi and the Jurua, yet similar to them. It is the Bilik who 
control the weather. Certain men, when they die, become not 
Lau or Jurua, but Bilik. Thus in one of his dreams that he 
related to me he met and conversed with the spirit of a deceased 
friend whom he spoke of as Boico Bilik, Boico having been his 
name when he was alive. A medicine-man is able to control 
the weather through his communication with the Bilik in 
dreams. In this tribe therefore we find a doctrine according to 
which Bilik is not the name of a single being but of a class of 
beings similar in essentials to the other two classes of spirits. It 
seemed to me possible that these beliefs are a comparatively late 
introduction by some of the medicine-men of the tribe. The 
Boico about whom my informant Tora dreamed seemed to have 
had some part in the development of the doctrine. This does 
not, however, in the least detract from its value as affording us 
an insight into the beliefs of the Andamanese. 

These beliefs clearly spring from an attempt to distinguish 
from one another the different northerly and easterly winds, each 
of the recognizable winds being regarded as a separate person, 
and from the merging together of the two contrary beliefs in the 
weather as regulated by spirits and by Bilik and Teria. The 
general system of beliefs about spirits as being responsible for 
all things that may affect human well-being inevitably leads 
to the notion that the weather is controlled by the spirits, 
and this is implied also in the belief that a medicine-man (whose 
power is derived from contact with the spirits) is also able to 
influence the weather to some extent. This doctrine, however, 


conflicts with the view of the weather and the seasons as controlled 
by Biliku and Tarai, who are not spirits but personifications of 
natural phenomena. It is perhaps this conflict between doctrines, 
both of them important and indeed necessary, that has led to the 
elaboration of the peculiar beliefs met with in the A-Pucikwar 

I have dealt with most of the more important details of the 
Biliku- Tarai myth, and have tried to show that the whole myth 
is an expression of the social value of the phenomena of the 
weather and the seasons. These phenomena affect the social 
life in certain definite ways and thereby become the objects of 
certain sentiments ; these sentiments are expressed in the 
legends. Biliku and Tarai are personifications of the N.E. and 
S.W. monsoons ; as such they are responsible for the weather ; 
feelings awakened by the weather are therefore referred to 
Biliku and Tarai ; thus the fear of a cyclone at certain periods 
of the year is expressed as a fear of the anger of Biliku. Since 
the time when men go in fear of storms is also the time when 
they are just beginning to dig up yams and eat them, the 
myth connects the anger of Biliku with the digging up of 
yams, and similarly in the cases of honey and the cicada. 
As Biliku is associated with vegetable foods, and these are 
things with which women chiefly have to do, Biliku (in the 
North Andaman) is regarded as female ; Tarai, being associated 
with flesh foods, is male ; the two are therefore conceived as wife 
and husband. As the maker of storms Biliku is responsible for 
the lightning and is therefore possessed of fire. She thus comes 
to be regarded as the first possessor of fire. This gives rise to 
stories of how the ancestors obtained their fire from Biliku, 
and as she is generally regarded as being hostile rather than 
friendly towards mankind, the stories relate how the fire was 
stolen from her. But besides being the maker of storms Biliku 
is also the dispenser of the good things of the season of the 
N.E. monsoon and when this aspect of the procession of the 
seasons is prominent before their minds the natives think of 
Biliku as a benefactress of mankind. As she is the possessor of 
fire, and as fire is the source of the life of the society, she comes 
to be regarded as herself the source of life, though there is an 


alternative myth that gives this position to a being associated 
with the sun. 

Such is a brief outline of the explanation that I have tried to 
demonstrate. It may be objected that there are a few important 
details and several minor details that I have not explained. To 
that extent my explanation is incomplete, but I hope that I 
have given sufficient evidence for it to justify us in using it as 
an integral part of the explanation of the meaning and function 
of the Andaman mythology in general. 

It is not necessary, for the purpose of this chapter, to 
examine one by one all the legends recorded. Indeed, there 
are many details of the Andaman mythology that I cannot 
explain, owing simply, I believe, to my lack of insight into the 
ways of thought of the natives. The examples already con- 
sidered are sufficient for the argument. If the interpretations 
given of these be correct we can base on them certain general 

I have explained some of the more important of the legends 
as being expressions or statements of the social value of natural 
phenomena. The alternation of day and night, for example, 
affects the life of the society in a certain definite manner and 
this gives rise to a certain way of thinking and feeling about the 
phenomenon in question. These thoughts and feelings, however, 
remain vague and without fixity until they are formulated and 
expressed either in the form of some definite rule of behaviour, 
such as the prohibition against noise while the cicada is singing, 
or in some concrete statement, such as that afforded by the legend 
of the origin of night. Similarly the legends relating to the 
origin of fire or the saving of the fire during the flood serve to 
give definite and permanent form to the vague feelings that 
result from the way in which the possession of fire affects the 
social life. Finally, I have tried to show that the myths relating 
to Biliku and Tarai are nothing but the expression in concrete 
form of the ideas and feelings that result from the effects of the 
weather and the seasons on the life of the Andaman Islanders. 
From these examples I now propose to draw a general conclusion. 
All the legends, I wish to maintain, are simply the expression in 
concrete form of the feelings and ideas aroused by things of all 


kinds as the result of the way in which these things affect the 
moral and social life of the Andaman Islanders. In other words 
the legends have for their function to express the social values 
of different objects, — to express in general the system of social 
values that is characteristic of the Andaman social organisation. 
To justify this general statement it will be necessary to show 
how it comes about that these representations are expressed in 
the form of myths and legends dealing with the ancestors and 
with such anthropomorphic beings as Biliku and Tarai. 

Throughout the myths we meet with examples of what 
I have called the personification of natural phenomena. It is 
now necessary to give a more exact definition of this term. By 
it I mean the association of a natural phenomenon with the 
idea of a person in such a way that the characteristics of the 
phenomenon may be regarded as though they were actions or 
characteristics of the person. The simplest form is that in 
which the phenomenon itself is spoken of and thought of as if it 
were an actual person. Thus the sun and the moon are spoken 
of as Lady Sun and Sir Moon. Similarly, in the North 
Andaman, the night is personified and is called Lady Night 
{Mimi Bat). In many cases of personification however, while 
the person may or may not possess the same name as the 
phenomenon, the latter is said to be produced by the former. 
Thus, in the North Andaman, jS/^ is the name of the lightning, and 
Ele is spoken of as a person ; yet, if we enquire further, we are told 
that Ele (the person) produces the lightning by shaking his leg. 
A somewhat similar case is that of Biliku and Tarai. These 
two beings are said to produce the winds that blow from the 
different quarters of the compass. But when we enquire as to 
the names of the winds, we find that in the South Andaman 
{A-Pucikwar tribe) the S.W. wind is called 7>rz«, and the other 
winds are all called Bilik. Thus the name of the person is also 
used as the name of the phenomenon of which he is (in the 
phraseology here used) the personification. In the North 
Andaman we find a difference, the winds being called " the 
Biliku wind " and " the Tarai wind." It is necessary to insist 
on this translation of the native Biliku boto and Tarai boto. We 
should expect, if Biliku were simply a person who produced the 


winds, that the latter would be called " the wind of Bi/iku" a 
possessive form {Biliku ico botd) being used, but this is not sOj. 
and the phrase habitually used can only be properly translated 
" the Biliku wind " just as we might say " the north wind." 
Thus, even in the North Andaman Biliku and Tarai are used as 
the names of the two chief winds. 

In all these cases, sun and moon, Biliku and Tarai, etc., I 
propose to use the term personification, as being the most con- 
venient and not liable to be misunderstood after having been 
carefully defined. We have now to seek an explanation of this 
process of personification. A great deal has been written on the 
subject of personification in mythology, and it is therefore not 
without diffidence that I venture to put forward an explanation 
which can only be very briefly stated in this place and would 
require for its full exhibition a lengthy psychological explanation. 

An insight into the process of personification is afforded by 
considering our own use of figurative language. We talk of the 
angry storm, the raging sea. In such cases we allow ourselves 
for a moment to regard the natural phenomenon as if it were a 
person or the action of a person, and we do not even trouble 
distinctly to express the " as if." We use such phrases in order 
to attain a more forcible expression of our thoughts and feelings. 
How is it that such expressions succeed in the purpose for which 
they are used ? 

The reason would seem to be that our knowledge and under- 
standing of persons is much more intimate than our knowledge 
of things. The fact that we are able, by the action of sympathy, 
to know what persons with whom we are in contact are feeling, 
gives us an understanding of them that we can never reach with 
inanimate objects. 

In all human society the most important elements of the 
experience of the individual are due to his relations with other 
persons. In the development of the emotional life of the child, 
persons intervene at every turn, and there is thus built up a 
system of sentiments and representations which forms the very 
foundation of the individual's affective life. In other words the 
first organised experience that the individual attains is all 
connected with persons and their relations to himself. This 


early experience provides a basis on which we may and do 
organise later experiences. The perception of the leaping waves 
and lashing spray of a sea in tempest arouses in us a vague 
emotional reaction, but it is an experience that we have not 
learned to formulate exactly. The feeling awakened in us is, so 
to speak, unclassified, there is no exact word by which we can 
express it. We therefore fall back upon that system of affective 
experiences that have been classified, and for which we do have 
adequate words, and we apply the word "angry" to the scene 
before us. At the utterance of the word, with its appeal to 
infantile memories and to the long series of experiences that 
have been associated with it, the emotion becomes more definite, 
if not more intense. We are thus enabled to classify our present 
experience, to associate it with past experiences that have been 
arranged in our minds in an organised system, and to find 
a place for it in that system. 

Applying this to the case of the myths we must first of all 
note that the Andaman Islander has no interest in nature save 
in so far as it directl}^ affects the social life. Scientific and 
artistic interest in nature are products of civilisation. The 
Andaman Islander has no desire to understand the processes of 
nature as a scientist would wish to do, nor has he any concep- 
tion of nature as a subject of esthetic contemplation. Natural 
phenomena affect him immediately by their influence on his own 
life and on the life of his fellows, and are thereby the source of 
a number of emotional experiences. In order to express these 
he has to make use of that part of his own experience that 
is already thoroughly organised, namely, that relating to the 
actions of one person as affecting another or as affecting 
the society. Only in this way is he able to organise his 
experiences arising from the processes of nature, to classify and 
render definite the vague impressions that are aroused in him. 
He interprets nature in terms of the world with which he is 
most familiar, the world of persons, being enabled to do so by 
the presence within him of a regulated and definite body of 
experience which he has derived from his relations with persons 
from the time of his first awakening to the consciousness of the 
external world. 


There is a parallelism here, as in many other matters, 
between the psychological development of the individual and 
that of the race. The fundamental need for the child is to 
learn to accommodate himself to his environment. In this en- 
vironment by far the most important objects are persons — 
parents and other children — and the first business of the 
growing child is to learn to adapt his actions to the require- 
ments of this intercourse with persons. This is so over- 
whelmingly important that the other need (of adapting himself 
to inanimate objects) is quite overshadowed by it. The child 
has to make experiments and observations upon persons, to 
learn how they will act. He meets with such a phenomenon as 
anger, for example,, the anger of a parent, or of another child, 
and by means of a succession of experiences he comes to a 
satisfactory understanding of this particular thing, and what 
it means with reference to himself and his actions. This notion 
of the anger of a parent becomes the nucleus around which is 
organised the experience of similar phenomena. In play or 
sometimes in earnest, the child treats all sorts of inanimate 
objects and events connected with them as if they were persons 
or the actions of persons. By this means, and by this means 
alone, he is able to exercise himself in his newly acquired 
experience and to extend and organise it yet further. 

In the history of the race the development of society 
depends upon the organisation of personal relations. The 
task of man in primitive society is therefore similar to the task 
of the child. The needs of his life compel him above every- 
thing else to devote himself to organising that part of his 
experience that relates to the actions of persons upon one 
another ; all else is subordinated to this supreme need ; and 
just as the child organises and develops his experience by 
treating inanimate objects as if they were persons in such a way 
that we can hardly tell if he is in play or in earnest, so primitive 
man, in exactly the same way, organises and develops his 
social experience by conceiving the whole universe as if it were 
the interaction of personal forces. 

This explanation of the nature of personification helps 
us to understand some of the Andamanese beliefs. Natural 


phenomena such as the alternation of day and night, the changes 
of the moon, the procession of the seasons, and variations of the 
weather, have important effects on the welfare of the society. 
The latter, in so far as it is regulated from within, depends on 
the adaptation of persons to one another. Men must learn to 
live in harmony, to sacrifice their own desires at times to the 
needs of others, to avoid occasions of giving offence, and not 
readily to give way to anger when offence is given. The 
Andaman Islander represents this fundamental law of the 
society as though it were the fundamental law of the whole 
universe. When any evil befalls the society it is as though 
some personal power were in question, as though some one 
were angry at some offence. Thus the moon and Biliku are 
represented as persons who can be offended and whose anger has 
unpleasant results. Conversely when all goes well it is because 
there is harmony or solidarity between men and the nature 
beings which affect men's lives. In a word, the forces with 
which the Andaman Islander is most familiar as affecting his 
welfare are those of solidarity and opposition ; it is solidarity 
that maintains the harmony of social life, opposition that 
destroys it. The forces of nature in so far as they affect the 
society are therefore represented as being of the same nature ; 
there can be either solidarity or opposition between men and 
nature ; the former leads to well-being, the latter to misfortune. 

Thus the personification of natural phenomena is one of the 
methods by which the Andaman Islander projects into the world 
of nature the moral forces that he experiences in the society. 
The process is essentially similar to that described in the last 
chapter in connection with the ceremonial, save that there the 
forces we were considering were largely impersonal. Perhaps, 
rather than speaking of it as a projection of moral forces into 
nature, we should regard it as a process of bringing within the 
circle of the social life those aspects of nature that are of im- 
portance to the well-being of the society, making the moon and 
the monsoons a part of the social order and therefore subject to 
the same moral forces that have sway therein. 

The personification of natural phenomena is not, however, 
the only method by which their social value can be expressed. 


The Akar-Bale legend of the origin of day and night, as we saw 
at the beginning of the chapter, expresses the social value of the 
alternation of light and darkness by means of a story of how it 
originated in the time of the ancestors. If we seek to under- 
stand all that this legend means we must ask why the Andaman 
Islanders believe in the existence of the ancestors, and why they 
attribute to them the characteristics that are exhibited in the 
stories they tell about them. The ground of the belief in the 
ancestors is to be found in the existence of a sentiment funda- 
mental in all human society, which I shall call the feeling of 
tradition. When an Andaman Islander is asked the question 
"Why do you do so and so?" he very frequently replies 
" Because our fathers did so before us." This answer expresses 
in its simplest form the feeling of tradition. In all his actions, 
in the way he obtains and cooks his food, in the way in which 
he makes his various implements and weapons, in the moral and 
ritual customs that he is required to observe, the native acts in 
accordance with tradition. If he should ever feel inclined to 
deviate from it he finds himself in conflict with a powerful com- 
pulsive force. In tradition, therefore, the individual is aware 
of a force stronger than himself, to which he must submit 
whether he will or not. Further, he is aware that the power 
which he possesses, as a member of the society, whereby he 
is able to face the hostile or at best indifferent forces of nature 
and provide himself with food and maintain himself in security 
and happiness, is not simply a product of his own personality, 
but is derived by him from the past. Towards this past, there- 
fore, on which his own life so obviously depends, he feels a 
grateful dependence. So long as he acts in conformity with 
tradition he can enjoy safety and happiness, because he is relying 
on something much greater than his own qualities of mind and 

To put the matter in a few words, the individual finds 
himself in relation with an ordered system — the social order — 
to which he has to adapt himself The two chief moments in 
his affective attitude towards that order are his sense of his own 
dependence upon it and of the need of conforming to its require- 
ments in his actions. It is this, — his sense of his own relation 


to the social order, — that the Andaman Islander expresses in 
the legends about the ancestors, which recount how that order 
came into existence as the result of actions of anthropomorphic 

Some of the legends recount the invention of weapons or 
implements or the discovery of the uses of natural objects. In 
one of the North Andaman stories it is said that all the weapons 
and implements now used by men were invented by the first man, 
whose name, /?/!^2/, probably means "alone," i.e., the man who 
was at first by himself. This first man made himself a wife 
from the nest of the white ant. The regulated society of the 
ants, and the numerous population that a nest contains, give 
this story its symbolic meaning. 

Besides what may be called general culture legends, of 
which the story of Jutpu is an example, there are several special 
culture legends relating to various discoveries and inventions, 
such as the tale of how the use of yams for food was first 
discovered, or that which tells how the monitor lizard discovered 
quartz and scarified himself with it. By means of these legends 
the Andaman Islander expresses his sense of his own dependence 
on the past. He pictures a time when the social order as it now 
is had not begun, or was just beginning ; the knowledge he now 
possesses was then being acquired, the weapons he uses were 
being invented, the moral and ritual laws that he obeys were in 
process of being formulated. 

It is obvious that the Andaman Islander cannot regard the 
ancestors as being persons exactly like himself, for they were 
responsible for the establishment of the social order to which he 
merely conforms and of which he has the advantage. He says, 
therefore, that they were bigger men than himself, meaning by 
this that they were bigger mentally or spiritually, rather than 
physically, that they were endowed with powers much greater 
than those even of the medicine-men of the present time. This 
explains the magical powers that are attributed to many, or indeed 
to all, of the ancestors ; the belief in the existence in the past 
of men or beings endowed with what we may almost call super- 
natural powers is the inevitable result of the way in which 
the man of to-day feels towards the men of the past on 


whose inventions and discoveries he is dependent for his daily- 

Besides the social order there is another, the order of nature^ 
which is constantly acting upon the social order. To this also 
the individual has to adapt himself, and his knowledge of how to 
do so is equally derived from the past. The order of nature only 
affects him through the social order, and the two therefore 
necessarily seem to him merely two parts of one whole, — the 
order of the universe. In the legends he tells how not only the 
social order but also the order of nature came into existence ; an 
example is the story of the origin of night. 

The Andaman Islander finds himself in an ordered world, a 
world subject to law, controlled by unseen forces. The laws are 
not to him what natural laws are to the scientist of to-day, they 
are rather of the nature of moral laws. He recognizes only one 
meaning of the word right and of the word wrong ; right action 
is that which is in conformity with law, wrong action is that 
in opposition to the law ; it is wrong to give way to anger, it 
is wrong to kill a cicada, or to have a bright light in camp 
when the moon is rising in the third quarter, and it is wrong 
also to try and use unsuitable material for an implement or 
weapon. Wrong actions always lead to harm ; if you use 
unsuitable wood for your bow it will break and your labour be 
wasted ; if you kill a cicada it will rain heavily ; if you give way 
to anger readily you will earn the dislike of your fellows that 
may some day lead to your undoing. Right and wrong mean 
acting in accordance with the laws of the world or in opposition 
to them, and this means acting in accordance with or in opposition 
to custom. Custom and law are indeed here two words for the 
same thing. 

The forces of the world, as the Andaman Islander conceives 
them, are not the blind mechanical forces of modern science : 
rather are they moral forces. Their action upon human beings 
is not only to be witnessed in external events, but is to be 

^ In the last chapter it was shown that the attribution of magical force to such things 
as foods and human bones is simply the means by which the social values of these 
things are represented and recognized. Similarly here the magical powers of the 
ancestors are simply the representation of their social value, i.e. of the social value of 


experienced in the man's own consciousness or conscience. He 
feels within himself their compulsion when he would run counter 
to them, and their support when he leans upon them. The law 
of the world, then, is a moral law, its forces are moral forces, its 
values moral values ; its order is a moral order. 

This view of the world is the immediate and inevitable result 
of the experience of man in society. It is a philosophy not 
reached by painful intellectual effort, by the searching out of 
meanings and reasons and causes ; it is impressed upon him in 
all the happenings of his life, is assumed in all his actions ; it 
needs only to be formulated. And the argument of this chapter 
has been that it is as the expression or formulation of this view 
of the world as an order regulated by law that the legends have 
their meaning, fulfil their function. -^ 

The legends of the Andamanese then, as I understand them, 
set out to give an account of how the order of the world came 
into existence. But the Andaman Islander has no interest in 
any part of it except in so far as it affects his own life. He is 
interested in the procession of the seasons or the alternation of 
day and night, or the phases of the moon, only in so far as these 
things have effects upon the community. In other words he is 
interested in natural phenomena only in so far as such phe- 
nomena are really parts of the social order. This I have 
expressed earlier in the chapter by saying that the legends deal 
not with all aspects of natural phenomena but only with their 
social values. 

A fundamental character of the natural order (as of the social 
order) is uniformity ; the same processes are for ever repeated. 
This character of nature the legends take for granted ; they assume 
that if a force is once set into action it will continue to act 
indefinitely. They assume also a period in which the present 
order did not exist. Anything that happened in that period 
has gone on happening ever since. One of the ancestors 
discovered how to cook yams, and men have been cooking 
yams in the same way down to the present day. A cicada 
was crushed and cried out and the night came, and since 
then the darkness has come every evening as soon as the 
cicada sings. In one of the legends the tree lizard was 

B. A. 25 


quarrelsome, and has remained so. Thus the legends represent 
the social order, including such natural phenomena as may- 
be said to belong to it, as being due to the interaction of 
forces of a special character that came into existence in the 
beginning and have continued to act uniformly ever since. In 
this way they express two most important conceptions, that of 
uniformity (or law) and that of the dependence of the present 
on the past. 

It is the need of expressing these two conceptions that gives 
the legends their function. They are not merely theoretical 
principles but are both intensely practical. The law of uni- 
formity means that certain actions must be done and others not 
done if life is to run smoothly ; any deviation from uniformity 
in conduct is dangerous as being contrary to the law that 
regulates the universe. What actions are to be done and what 
are to be left undone was determined once for all in the past 
when the present order came into existence. The knowledge of 
what to do and what to avoid doing is what constitutes the 
tradition of the society, to which every individual is required 
to conform. 

The legends, then, set out to express and to justify these 
two fundamental conceptions. They do so by telling how the 
social order itself came into existence, and how, also, all those 
natural phenomena that have any bearing on the social well- 
being came to be as they are and came to have the relation to 
the society that they possess. 

One group of facts that have an obvious relation to the 
society consists of the geographical features of the islands. The 
more notable features of the part of the country in which a man 
lives, and which he regards as his own, are intimately connected 
with his moral sentiments. His attachment to his group neces- 
sarily involves an attachment to the country of the group. The 
same sort of thing exists amongst ourselves. This attachment 
of the members of a group to their own country explains, I 
think, the part played by what may be called "local motives " 
in the legends of the Andamanese. Such motives are of 
considerable importance, of much more importance than would 
appear from the stories that I have transcribed. The recent 


changes in their mode of life have had far more influence on the 
local organisation of the tribes than on any other part of their 
social organisation, and this has not been without its effect on 
the legends. We may say, briefly, that the local motives of the 
legends serve to express the social values of localities. In 
general each locality has its own versions of the legends, in 
which the events related are supposed to have taken place at 
some spot or other in the neighbourhood. Thus all the more 
prominent features of a locality are associated with the events 
of the legends. In some cases tales are told that explain these 
features as having come into existence when the ancestors were 
alive ; a reef of rocks was formerly a canoe, for instance. A few 
such legends were recorded in an earlier chapter, but it is 
probable that there were a vast number of similar tales that I 
did not hear. In some cases a locality has a special social value 
and therefore a special place in the legends. Thus Woia-Emi 
was the great meeting-place for the natives who lived on 
Baratang and on parts of the South Andaman and the Middle 
Andaman, and was also sometimes visited by the natives of the 
Archipelago. Consequently Wota-Emi is represented in the 
legends of the A-Piicikwar tribe as being the great meeting- 
place or dwelling-place of the ancestors. The effect of these 
associations between the places with which he is familiar and 
the events of the legendary epoch in the mind of the Andaman 
Islander probably is similar to the effect on ourselves of the 
historical associations of our own country ; they serve to make 
him aware of his attachment to his country or to express his 
sense of that attachment. 

There still remains a most important feature of the legends 
which has not yet been explained, namely the position of the 
animals as ancestors. Many of the actors in the legends bear 
the names of animals but at the same time are spoken of as 
though they were human beings. Many of the legends explain 
how some species of animal arose from some one of the 
ancestors who became an animal and the progenitor of the 
species. Thus, in the North Andaman, Kolo was one of the 
ancestors ; he made wings for himself out of palm-leaves, and 
so was able to fly ; he lived a solitary life in his home at the top 

25 — 2 


of a tree, and was in the habit of stealing men's wives ; in the 
end he became the sea-eagle, and this species still bears the 
name kolo. It is necessary to define as exactly as possible what 
meaning these stories have to the natives. It is not simply that 
the legendary person is a man with the name and some of the 
characteristics of an animal ; nor is it simply that the legendary 
person is the ancestor of the species of which he bears the name. 
We can only adequately express the thought of the Andamanese 
by saying that he regards the whole species as if it were a 
human being. When, in the legends, he speaks of " Sea-eagle " 
he is thereby personifying the species in the sense in which the 
word personification has been used throughout this chapter ; he 
is regarding the characteristics of the species as if they were 
characteristics or actions or results of actions of a person. 
Admittedly this is a vague description, but the vagueness is in 
the mental phenomenon described ; the Andamanese do not, in 
this matter, think clearly and analyse their own thoughts. 
However, we can help ourselves to understand their thoughts 
by recalling the tales that amused us as children, in which 
the fox or the rabbit of the tale was an embodiment of the 
whole species. 

The part played in the legends by any particular animal is 
determined either immediately or indirectly by its observable 
characteristics. Thus the connection of the kingfisher with fire is 
due to the fact that he is a fish-eating bird, and that he has a 
patch of bright red feathers, red being, in the Andamanese 
mind, always associated with fire. The other birds that are 
mentioned in the different versions of the fire legend either 
possess remarkable plumage (as the dove, and the parrot) or 
are fish-eating birds. The Andamanese regard fish as the 
fundamental human food, having only one word for " food " 
and " fish," and they never eat their fish raw as the kingfisher 
does. In the Akar-Bale story of the origin of the animals- 
the tree lizard is characterised by his quarrelsomeness, and by 
the fact that he is very difficult to catch hold of; these are 
both actual characteristics of the animal itself The crab 
appears in the same legend as a person with a very powerful 
grip, and with a hard shell to his body. The monitor lizard has 


his place in the legends determined by the fact that he can 
climb trees, run on the ground and swim in the water, and is 
thus equally at home at the top of the trees, on the ground, or in 
the creek. I have already given this as one of the reasons why 
he is chosen as the first ancestor of all the animals and of 
human beings. The lizard also seems to be regarded by the 
Andamanese as a particularly libidinous animal, and is therefore 
regarded as the inventor of sexual intercourse and of procrea- 
tion. Why he should have this sexual reputation I do not 
know\ The tale of how the lizard invented scarification 
depends on the fact that the marks on the lizard's skin bear 
a strong resemblance to the marks that the natives make on 
their own skins with sharp fragments of quartz. The position 
of the Paradoxurus or civet-cat in the stories in which she 
appears is due to the fact that while she can live in the trees or 
on the ground she cannot swim ; hence, when the flood came, 
she fled from the water and climbed a steep hill and thus kept 
the fire alight. In the light of these examples we are justified, 
I think, in assuming that in all cases, even when the meaning is 
not clear, the part played by any animal in the legends is due 
to some actual characteristic of it. 

There is thus a parallelism between the personification of 
natural phenomena and the personification of animal species. 
I have shown that the characteristics of such beings as Bilikii 
and Tarai are all to be explained by a consideration of the 
actual characteristics of the phenomena of which they are the 
personification (the winds) and of the phenomena immediately 
connected therewith. The same thing has now been shown to 
be true with regard to the personified animals. The process of 
personification is carried out in exactly the same way in the two 
difl"erent classes of cases. I gave as the reason for personi- 
fying natural phenomena the fact that in this way, and in this 
way only, the Andaman Islander is able to express the 
sentiments that are aroused in him by them. We must see 

^ In Central Australia it is believed that if a boy who has not been initiated eats 
large lizards he will develop an abnormal and diseased craving for sexual intercourse. 
(Spencer and Gillen, Native Tribes of Central Australia, p. 471.) A friend who has 
observed the monitor lizard in Australia tells me that the animal fully deserves its 


if we can justify the personification of animals by a similar 

The habits of observation fostered in the mind of the 
Andaman Islander by his method of winning his sustenance 
lead him to take a lively interest in all the creatures of the 
jungle and the sea, about whose ways he therefore has a great 
store of knowledge. Every tree and plant of the forest, every 
bird and insect, every creature that lives in the sea or on the 
reef has its name. His interest, however, in the case of many of 
the animals has little or no relation to practical life, for he does 
not make use of them for food or in any other way. There is 
here therefore something that contradicts the fundamental 
assumption of the philosophy that is expressed in the legends, 
there is a lack of mental unity. These interests in the birds 
and insects are not correlated with the central mass of interests 
that control the Andamanese mind and give it its unity. 
Although his philosophy assumes that everything in which he 
takes an interest has some meaning in reference to his own life, 
yet here are things that at first sight have no such meaning. 
The correlation that is lacking in his experience is brought 
about by means of the legends ; a meaning is provided for 
the apparently meaningless. The fundamental interest of the 
Andaman Islander, as of all men in primitive societies, is his 
interest in persons and personal relations. By regarding the 
animals as persons and relating stories about them he is able to 
correlate his interest in them with the fundamental basis of his 
mental life. 

This explanation does not perhaps sound very satisfactory. 
We do not at present understand the forces that compel the 
normal mind to strive after unity in its experience. Let us 
examine the matter a little more closely. All the thoughts and 
feelings of the Andamian Islander (or at any rate all those that 
are expressed in the legends) centre in the society ; for him the 
world is merely a stage on which the social drama is perpetually 
enacted. He coordinates all his thoughts, emotions, and interests 
around the society, and in the legends he builds up a picture 
showing the connection between the society and those phenomena 
of nature that affect it. The majority of the animals (the birds. 


the insects, and innumerable kinds of fish), not being used for 
food, or in any other way, bear no apparent relation to the 
social life. Yet by reason of the woodcraft developed by 
the necessities of his life he is compelled to take notice of 
these creatures and to become interested in their ways. Here, 
therefore, are two conflicting elements in his consciousness, 
(i) his belief that the whole of nature derives its meaning 
and interest from its relation to the society, and (2) his con- 
sciousness of an alien world (of the birds, etc.) which seems to 
have no direct relation to the society, and which nevertheless he 
cannot help being constantly aware of The Andaman Islander, 
as I have stated more than once, does not possess any scientific 
or abstract interest in nature. He never asks himself " What is 
the meaning of this?" in the same way that a scientist of our 
own civilisation might do. He asks " What is the meaning of 
this thing in relation to me and my interests and feelings, and 
to the social life of which my life is a fragment ?" It is because 
he does feel the need of answers to questions of this kind that 
the conflict we have noticed arises. This conflict has to be 
resolved, and there are apparently three alternatives: (i) to 
admit that there is a meaning in nature apart from its relation 
to the society, (2) to refuse to take any interest in birds and 
insects, (3) to explain away the apparent lack of relation. It is 
this third alternative that is chosen by the Andaman Islander, 
and there are obvious reasons why it should be so. The 
explanation is accomplished in a direct and simple manner. 
In the beginning men and animals were one ; then came an 
event or series of events (the discovery of fire, the great flood, 
or a great quarrel amongst the ancestors) whereby the men 
and the animals became cut off from one another, to live 
henceforward in the same world, but separated by an unseen 

The argument may be put in another way that may perhaps 
be more convincing. The actual sentiment that is aroused in 
the mind of the native by the animals is that here is an 
important and interesting part of the universe that is alien 
to him, from which he is cut off in some strange way. It is 
this real sentiment, itself the inevitable result of his life and his 


surroundings, that is expressed in the beHef in the animals as 

If this explanation be correct we should expect to find that 
the animals that figure in the legends are those that have no 
immediate social value either as food or in any other way, while 
on the other hand the animals that are used for food will not 
appear in the legends, or will occupy therein a very different 
place from the others. The only land animal that is regularly 
used for food is the pig. It is therefore a confirmation of the 
explanation that we find that the pig is never under any 
circumstances regarded as one of the ancestors, that is to say, is 
never personified in the same way that other animals are. One 
legend about the pig^ explains, not how the animal came into 
existence (that seems to be assumed), but how it acquired its 
senses. Another legend^ tells how the civet-cat persuaded some 
of the ancestors to play a game in which they pretended to be 
pigs, and they were turned into these animals. Here we are 
clearly dealing with something different from the ordinary 
process of personification, for we have not one ancestor in whom 
the species is personified, but a number of persons who were 
suddenly changed from men and women into pigs by the 
magical performance of the civet-cat. In the sea there are 
several animals that are regularly used for food. The dugong is 
spoken of as an ancestor in an Akar-Bale legend, but in the 
North Andaman there is a story of how the dugong originated 
from a pig that Perjido tried to roast without first disem- 
bowelling it and cutting the joints of its legs. There is also 
in the North Andaman a story of how turtles originated ^ The 
existence of these legends shows that the pig, the turtle and 
the dugong occupy a different position in the minds of the 
Andamanese from that of the other animals. This serves, 
in some measure, to confirm the explanation given above. 

We may briefly consider what may be regarded as a kind of 
negative instance by which to test the argument. The world of 
the stars constitutes a part of the universe just as alien, just as 
devoid of apparent meaning as that of the birds. We may ask 
therefore how it is that the Andaman Islanders have no star 
^ Page 217. 2 Page 218. ^ Page 318. 


myths of the kind that are common in other primitive societies. 
The answer is, I think, that the Andamanese do not have their 
attention called to the stars. As their camps are in the dense 
forest there are very few occasions on which they see the sky at 
night. When fishing at night on the reefs or in canoes they are 
too busy to pay much attention to the stars. They have not 
learnt to relate the procession of the stars and the change of the 
seasons, nor have they learnt to tell the time at night from their 
declination. Their navigation is only along the coast and they 
have therefore no use for the stars as guides of direction. On 
the contrary, wherever we find a developed star-mythology we 
find that the stars are studied either as guides to navigation or 
journeying overland, or as giving indications of the changes 
of the seasons. 

We have considered all the more important aspects of the 
subject matter of the legends ; it remains for us to turn to the 
form and enquire how it comes about that the representations 
which analysis reveals are expressed in just the way they are, in 
a word, why the expression takes the form of a story. It is 
obvious that in this place no attempt can be made to deal with 
the general problems of the psychology of story-telling. All 
that I wish to do is to point out one or two reasons why the 
legend is an appropriate form (perhaps we might say, the only 
possible form) for the expression of the view of the world that is 
revealed in the Andaman mythology. 

The Andamanese, like other savages, have not acquired the 
power of thinking abstractly. All their thought necessarily 
deals with concrete things. Now the story form provides a 
means of expressing concretely what could otherwise only be 
put in an abstract statement. (A large part of the interpreta- 
tion of the legends, as here undertaken, consists in restating the 
content of the legends in abstract terms.) Moreover, even if the 
Andaman Islanders were capable of thinking abstractly, yet, 
since what they need to express are not thoughts so much as 
feelings (not intellectual so much as affective processes), they 
would still need a concrete form of expression. For it is a 
familiar fact that the concrete has a much greater power of 
awakening or appealing to our feelings than has the abstract. 


In particular the story has ever been a popular medium by 
which to appeal to sentiments of all kinds. 

The chief ground for the interest in stories shown by children 
and by savages is, I believe, that they afford the means of 
exercising the imagination in certain specific directions and 
thereby play an important part in enabling the individual to 
organise his experience. The course of the development of 
the human mind (from childhood to adolescence, and from 
the earliest human ancestor to ourselves) depends upon or 
involves the existence at certain stages of growth (and to 
a certain extent throughout the whole process) of a conscious 
egoistic interest. Mankind, to develop what we call character 
and conscience, must learn to take a conscious interest in 
himself, in his own actions, and their motives. The develop- 
ment of this self-consciousness in children is a process of great 
interest to the psychologist and has already been studied in an 
imperfect fashion. You have only to watch a child playing a 
game in which he or she enacts some imaginary part to see how 
such games afford a means by which the child develops and 
widens his interest in himself Children, and many grown-up 
people (particularly during conditions of lessened mental 
activity), indulge in what are called daydreams, which take 
the form of an imaginary succession of adventures of which the 
dreamer is always the hero. The character of daydreams is 
that they are always frankly egoistic and boastful. Now this 
sort of interest in stories is found in the Andamanese, though 
not in the legends. At the end of a day a group of Andamanese 
may often be seen seated round a fire listening while one of 
them recounts adventures. The narration may be merely an 
exaggerated account of real happenings, but is more often purely 
fictitious. The narrator will tell, with few words, but with many 
expressive gestures, how he harpooned a turtle or shot a pig. 
He may, if his hearers are content to remain and listen, as they 
sometimes are, go on killing pig after pig for an hour or two 
together. The point to be noted is that these tales are always 
frankly egoistic and boastful, and it is for this reason that 
they may well be compared with the daydreams of the more 


Besides this egoistic interest in stories there is another that 
is closely connected with it in origin and function. The necessi- 
ties of social life, particularly in childhood and in primitive 
societies where a small number of people are constantly reacting 
upon one another, involve an intense degree of interest in 
persons and personal qualities. This interest is aroused and 
fostered by the constant play of personal forces in the social life. 
Its strength accounts, I believe, for the power of appeal to 
sentiments that is possessed by stories. 

It is a commonplace that in many forms of play the child or 
the adult (and it is also true of animals) exercises faculties that 
are important parts of the system of habits or dispositions by 
which the individual adapts himself to his surroundings. We 
may regard the interest in stories as similar to play-interests in 
general. Life in society requires the individual to develop a 
faculty of what may be called character-estimation, whereby 
he may judge the motives that are likely to influence the 
conduct of another person. I have myself noticed that savages 
such as the Andaman Islanders and the Australian aborigines 
are as a rule good judges of character. They can quickly 
estimate how to adapt their conduct and conversation to the 
character of a person they meet for the first time. They are 
often excellent mimics, being able to imitate exactly the tone of 
voice or manner of walking or any other idiosyncrasy of a person 
whom they have only seen for a short time. I believe, then, that 
the legends of the Andamanese may be regarded as a means 
whereby they give exercise to their interest in human character, 
just as in other kinds of play they exercise other interests and 
faculties that are integral parts of their adaptation to their 
environment. By means of the personification of natural phe- 
nomena and of species of animals, and through the assumption 
of the existence of the ancestors and their times, they are able 
to develop a special kind of unwritten literature, which has for 
them just the same sort of appeal that much of our own litera- 
ture has for us. Doubtless it is not a very polished form of art ; 
the characterisation that it exhibits is simple and even crude; 
the story is not told very skilfully, and indeed the story-teller 
relies much on his use of expressive gesture to convey his 


meaning ; nevertheless it does fulfil amongst the Andamanese 
the same sort of function that more developed literary art does in 
civilised society. 

There remains one other matter to be dealt with briefly. 
I have pointed out on several occasions that the legends contain 
inconsistencies. Some of these only appear when the real 
meaning of the legend is discovered, but others are on the 
surface. It is clear that the Andamanese do not always apply 
to their legends the laws of logical consistency. It must not, 
however, be supposed that they are equally illogical in other 
matters, for this is not so. In matters of everyday practical life 
the Andamanese show just as much sound commonsense as the 
inhabitants of a civilised country. They are excellent observers 
of natural phenomena and are capable of putting their observa- 
tions to practical use. In any attempt to explain their 
mythology, therefore, it is necessary to show why in this sphere 
they do not apply their powers of reasoning. We can under- 
stand this when we recall the purpose of the legends as here 
described, which is, not to give rational explanations, but to 
express sentiments. When there are two alternative rational 
explanations of a phenomenon between which we cannot 
definitely choose we say that either one or other is probably 
true. In those mental processes in which the purpose is to find 
a symbolic expression for sentiments or desires, the either-or 
relation is inadmissible owing to the very nature of the thought- 
process itself If two expressions of the same sentiment are 
present, both equally adequate, we must either reject one of 
them or by making use of both on different occasions admit 
the possibility of inconsistency. Where the inconsistency 
becomes more or less obvious we expect the reason to step in 
and insist that a choice shall be made. But a mind intent on 
expressing certain feelings, faced with two alternative and 
equally satisfactory but inconsistent symbols, will hesitate to 
choose between them even at the command of the desire for 
logical consistency. It will cling as long as possible to both of 
them. This is just what the Andaman Islander seems to do in 
his mythology. The view of lightning as a person who shakes 
his leg seems to express in some way certain notions of the 


natives about the lightning. The alternative explanation of 
lightning as a fire-brand thrown by Biliku also satisfies in some 
way his need of expressing the impressions that the phenomena 
make upon him. In spite of the inconsistency he clings to both 
symbols as best he can. 

The very existence of inconsistencies of this kind proves 
without any doubt that the mental processes underlying the 
legends of the Andamanese are not similar to those that we 
ourselves follow when we attempt to understand intelligently 
the facts of nature and of life, but rather are to be compared to 
those that are to be found in dreams and in art, — processes of 
what might conveniently be called symbolic thought. It would 
perhaps hardly be necessary to point this out were it not that 
many ethnologists still try to interpret the beliefs of savages as 
being the result of attempts to tmderstand natural facts, such as 
dreams, death, birth, etc. Such writers assume that the savage 
is impelled by the same motive that so strongly dominates 
themselves, the desire to understand, — scientific curiosity — and 
that such beliefs as animism or totemism are of the nature of 
scientific hypotheses invented to explain the facts of dreaming 
and of death on the one hand and of conception and birth on 
the other. If this view of the nature of primitive thought were 
correct it would be impossible to conceive how such inconsisten- 
cies as those that we meet with among the Andamanese could 
be permitted. On the view that the myths of primitive societies 
are merely the result of an endeavour to express certain ways of 
thinking and feeling about the facts of life which are brought 
into existence by the manner in which life is regulated in society, 
the presence of such inconsistencies need not in the least 
surprise us, for the myths satisfactorily fulfil their function not 
by any appeal to the reasoning powers of the intellect but by 
appealing, through the imagination, to the mind's affective dis- 

The thesis of this chapter has been that the legends are the 
expression of social values of objects of different kinds. By 
the social value of an object is meant the way in which it affects 
the life of the society, and therefore, since every one is interested 
in the welfare of the society to which he belongs, the way in 


which it affects the social sentiments of the individual. The 
system of social values of a society obviously depends upon the 
manner in which the society is constituted, and therefore the 
legends can only be understood by constant reference to the mode 
of life of the Andamanese. 

The legends give us in the first place a simple and crude 
valuation of human actions. Anger, quarrelsomeness, carelessness 
in observing ritual requirements are exhibited as resulting in 
harm. This is the moral element of the stories strictly so called, 
and is to be observed in many of them. The young men who 
failed to observe the rules laid down for those who have recently 
been through one of the initiation ceremonies were turned to 
stone. The quarrelsomeness of the lizard led to the ancestors 
being turned into animals. The bad temper of one of the 
ancestors resulted in darkness covering the earth, or in a great 
cyclone in which many were destroyed. 

Secondly, the legends as a whole give expression to the social 
value of the past, of all that is derived from tradition, whether 
it be the knowledge by which men win their sustenance, or the 
customs that they observe. In the wonderful times of the 
ancestors all things were ordered, all necessary knowledge was 
acquired, and the rules that must guide conduct were discovered. 
It remains for the individual of the present only to observe the 
customs with which his elders are familiar. 

The legends of a man's own tribe serve also to give a social 
value to the places with which he is familiar. The creeks and 
hills that he knows, the camping sites at which he lives, the reefs 
and rocks that act as landmarks by reason of any striking feature 
they may present, are all for him possessed of a historic interest 
that makes them dear to him. The very names, in many cases, 
recall events of the far-off legendary epoch. 

Again, many of the legends express the social value of natural 
phenomena. By reference to Biliku and Tarai, for instance, the 
native can express what he feels with respect to the weather and 
the seasonal changes that so profoundly affect the common life. 
Finally, in the legends he is able to express what he feels about 
the bright plumaged birds and the other creatures with which 
he is constantly meeting in the jungles, which are a source of 


perennial interest, and are yet so clearly a part of the world cut 
off from himself and his life, having no immediately discernible 
influence upon his welfare. 

This system of social values, or rather this system of senti- 
ments, that we find expressed in the legends is an essential part 
of the life of the Andamanese ; without it they could not have 
organised their social life in the way they have. Moreover the 
sentiments in question need to be regularly expressed in some 
way or another if they are to be kept alive and passed on from 
one generation to another. The legends, which are related by 
the elders to the young folk, are one of the means (the various 
ceremonial customs analysed in the last chapter being another) 
by which they are so expressed, and by which their existence is 

Although the term "social value" has been used as a con- 
venient expression, yet the meaning of the legends might be 
expressed in other ways. We may say, for instance, that they 
give a representation of the world as regulated by law. The 
conception of law which they reveal is not, however, that to 
which we are accustomed when we think of natural law. We 
may perhaps adequately state the Andaman notion by saying 
that moral law and natural law are not distinguished from one 
another. The welfare of the society depends upon right actions ; 
wrong actions inevitably lead to evil results. Giving way to 
anger is a wrong action, as being a cause of social disturbance. 
In the legends the catastrophes that overwhelmed the ancestors 
are in many instances represented as being caused by some one 
giving way to anger. There is a right way and a wrong way to 
set about making such a thing as a bow. We should explain 
this by saying that the right way will give a good serviceable 
weapon, whereas the wrong way will give an inferior or useless 
one. The Andaman Islander tends to look at the matter from 
a different angle ; the right way is right because it is the one 
that has been followed from time immemorial, and any othei; 
way is wrong, is contrary to custom, to law. Law, for the 
Andaman Islander, means that there is an order of the universe, 
characterised by absolute uniformity ; this order was established 
once for all in the time of the ancestors, and is not to be 


interfered with, the results of any such interference being evil^ 
ranging from merely minor ills such as disappointment or 
discomfort to great calamities. The law of compensation is 
absolute. Any deviation from law or custom will inevitably 
bring its results, and inversely any evil that befalls must be the 
result of some lack of observance. The legends reveal to our 
analysis a conception of the universe as a moral order. 

Here I must conclude my attempt to interpret the customs 
and beliefs of the Andaman Islanders, but in doing so I wish to 
point out, though indeed it must already be fairly obvious, that 
if my interpretation be correct, then the meaning of the customs 
of other primitive peoples is to be discovered by similar methods 
and in accordance with the same psychological principles. It is 
because I have satisfied myself of the soundness of these methods 
and principles, by applying them to the interpretation of other 
cultures, that I put forward the hypotheses of these two chapters 
with an assurance that would not perhaps be justified if I relied 
solely on a study of the Andamanese. To put the matter in 
another way, I have assumed a certain working hypothesis, and 
I have shown that on the basis of this hypothesis there can be 
built up a satisfactory explanation of the customs and beliefs of 
the Andamanese. But the hypothesis is of such a nature, stating 
or involving as it does certain sociological or psychological laws 
and principles, that if it be true for one primitive people it must 
be true for others, and indeed, with necessary modifications, must 
be true of all human society. Such a hypothesis, it is obvious^ 
cannot be adequately tested by reference only to one limited set 
of facts, and it will therefore be necessary, if it is to become 
something more than a hypothesis, to test its application over 
a wider range of ethnological facts. 

The matter is so important that it is necessary, even at the 
risk of wearisome repetition, to give a final statement of the 
hypothesis that, in this chapter and the last, has been applied 
to and tested by the facts known to us concerning the Andaman 

In an enquiry such as this, we are studying, I take it, not 
isolated facts, but a " culture," understanding by that word the 
whole mass of institutions, customs and beliefs of a given people. 


For a culture to exist at all, and to continue to exist, it naust 
conform to certain conditions. It must provide a mode of 
subsistence adequate to the environment and the existing density 
of population ; it must provide for the continuance of the society 
by the proper care of children ; it must provide means for 
maintaining the cohesion of the society. All these things involve 
the regulation of individual conduct in certain definite ways ; 
they involve, that is, a certain system of moral customs. 

Each type of social organisation has its own system of moral 
customs, and these could be explained by showing how they 
serve to maintain the society in existence. Such an explanation 
would be of the psychological, not of the historical type ; it 
would give not the cause of origin of any custom, but its social 
function. For example it is easy to see the function of the very 
strong feelings of the Andamanese as to the value of generosity 
in the distribution of food and of energy in obtaining it, and as 
to the highly reprehensible nature of laziness and greediness 
(meaning by the latter word, eating much when others have 
little). It has only been by the cultivation of these virtues, or/- 
by the eradication of the opposite vices, that the Andaman ) 
society has maintained itself in existence in an environment / 
where food is only obtainable by individual effort, where it cannot j 
be preserved from day to day, and where there are occasional ( 
times of scarcity. It could be shown, to take a further example, ) 
how the manner in which the life of the family is organised ) 
is closely related to certain fundamental social needs. If we 
were attempting an explanation of the Andamanese culture as 
a whole and in all its details it would be necessary to examine 
all the moral customs of the people and show their relations 
one to another and to the fundamental basis on which the society 
is organised. 

The necessary regulation of conduct in a given society 
depends upon the existence in each individual of an organised 
system of sentiments. That system of sentiments or motives 
will clearly be different in different cultures, just as the system 
of moral rules is different in societies of different types. Yet 
there is, so to speak, a general substratum that is the same in 

B. A. 26 


all human societies. No matter how the society may be organised 
there must be in the individual a strong feeling of attachment 
to his own group, to the social division (nation, village, clan, 
tribe, caste, or what not) to which he belongs. The particular 
way in which that sentiment is revealed in thought and action 
will depend upon the nature of the group to which it refers. 
Similarly, no society can exist without the presence in the minds 
of its members of some form or other of the sentiment of moral 
obligation — the sentiment that certain things must be done, 
certain other things must not be done, because those are right, 
good, virtuous, these are wrong, bad, vicious or sinful. Further, 
though perhaps less important, yet not less necessary, there is 
the sentiment of dependence in its various forms — dependence 
on others, on the society, on tradition or custom. 

For a culture to exist, then, these sentiments (and others 
connected with them, that need not be enumerated) must exist 
in the minds of individuals in certain definite forms, capable 
of influencing action in the direction required to maintain the 
cohesion of the society on its actual basis of organisation. This, 
we may say, is the social function of these sentiments. 

Leaving aside altogether the question of how sentiments 
of these kinds come into existence, we may note that they 
involve the existence of an experience of a particular type. The 
individual experiences the action upon himself of a power or 
force — constraining him to act in certain ways not always 
pleasant, supporting him in his weakness, binding him to his 
fellows, to his group. This force is clearly something not him- 
self — something outside of him therefore, and yet equally clearly 
it makes itself felt not as mere external compulsion or support, 
but as something within his own consciousness — within himself, 
therefore. If we would give a name to this force we can only 
call it the moral force of society. The very existence of a 
I human society, the argument has run, necessarily involves the 
existence of this actual experience of a moral force, acting 
through the society upon the individual, and yet acting within 
his own consciousness. The experience, then, is there, but it 
does not follow that the primitive man can analyse his own 


experience ; it is obvious enough that such analysis is beyond 
him. Still the experience does lead him to form certain 
notions or representations, and it is possible to show how these 
notions are psychologically related to the experience of a moral 

The experience of this moral force comes to the individual in 
definite concrete experiences only. We first learn to experience 
our own dependence in our dealings with our parents, and thus 
we derive the concrete form in which we clothe our later adult 
feeling of our dependence upon our God. Or, to take an example 
from the vast number provided by the customs of the Andamanese, 
the Andaman Islander, like other savages, the main concern of 
whose lives is the getting and eating of food, inevitably finds his 
experience of a moral force most intimately associated with the 
things he uses for food. Inevitably, therefore, he regards food 
as a substance in which, in some way, the moral force is inherent, 
since it is often through food that the force actually affects him 
and his actions. The psychology of the matter can be traced, 
I hope, in the arguments of the last chapter. From the analysis 
there given of different customs and beliefs it should be obvious | 
that the way in which the Andaman Islander regards all the 
things that influence the social life is due to the way in which 
they are associated with his experience of the moral force of the 

In this way there arises in the mind of primitive man, as the 
result of his social life and the play of feeling that it involves, 
the more or less crude and undefined notion of a power in 
society and in nature having certain attributes. It is this power 
that is responsible for all conditions of social euphoria or dysphoria 
because in all such conditions the power itself is actually 
experienced. It is the same power that compels the individual 
to conform to custom in his conduct, acting upon him both 
within as the force of conscience and without as the force of 
opinion. It is the same force on which the individual feels 
himself to be dependent, as a source of inner strength to him 
in times of need. It is this force also that carries him away 
during periods of social excitement such as dances, ceremonies 

26 — 2 


or fights, and which gives him the feeling of a sudden great 
addition to his own personal force. 

The Andamanese have not reached the point of recognizing 
by a special name this power of which they are thus aware. 
I have shown that in some of its manifestations they regard it, 
symbolically, as being a sort of heat, or a force similar to that 
which they know in fire and heat. In more developed societies, 
however, we find a nearer approach to a definite recognition of 
this power or force in its different manifestations by means 
of a single name. The power denoted by the word mana in 
Melanesia, and by the words orenda, wakan, nauala, etc., amongst 
different tribes of North America, is this same power of which 
I have tried to show that the notion arises from the actual 
experience of the moral force of the society. 

These sentiments and the representations connected with 
them, upon the existence of which, as we have seen, the very 
existence of the society depends, need to be kept alive, to be 
maintained at a given degree of intensity. Apart from the 
necessity that exists of keeping them alive in the mind of the 
individual, there is the necessity of impressing them upon each 
new individual added to the society, upon each child as he or she 
develops into an adult. Even individual sentiments do not remain 
in existence in the mind unless they are exercised by being 
expressed. Much more is this the case with collective sentiments, 
those shared by a number of persons. The only possible way 
by which such collective sentiments can be maintained is by 
giving them regular and adequate expression. 

Here then, according to the argument of the last chapter, we 
find the function of the ceremonial customs of primitive peoples^ 
»such as the Andamanese. All these customs are simply mearjs \ 
I by which certain ways of feeling about the different aspect^ of 
I social life are regularly expressed, and, through expression, kept 
I alive and passed on from one generation to another. Thus the 
customs connected with foods serve to maintain in existence 
certain ways of feeling about foods and the moral duties j:on- 
nected with them, and similarly with other customs. ,^ 
Affective modes of experience (sentiments, feelings or 


emotions) can be expressed not only in bodily movements but 
also by means of language. I have tried to show that the 
function of the myths and legends of the Andamanese is exactly 
parallel to that of the ritual and ceremonial. They serve to 
express certain ways of thinking and feeling about the society 
and its relation to the world of nature, and thereby to maintain 
these ways of thought and feeling and pass them on to succeeding 
generations. In the case of both ritual and myth the sentiments 
expressed are those that are essential to the existence of the 

Throughout these two chapters I have avoided the use of the 
term religion. My reason for this is that I have not been able 
to find a definition of this term which would render it suitable 
for use in a scientific discussion of the beliefs of such primitive 
peoples as the Andamanese. 

When we use the term religion we inevitably think first of 
what we understand by that term in civilised society. It is not 
possible, I believe, to give an exact definition which shall retain 
all the connotations of the word as commonly used and which 
shall at the same time help us in the study of the customs of 
undeveloped societies. The definition of religion that seems to 
me on the whole most satisfactory is that it consists of (i) a belief 
in a great moral force or power (whether personal or not) existing 
in nature, and (2) an organised relation between man and this 
Higher Power. If this definition be accepted it is clear that 
the Andamanese have religious beliefs and customs. They do 
believe in a moral power , regulating the universe, and they have 
organised their relations to that power by means of some of 
their simple ceremonies. Yet it does not seem possible to draw 
a sharp dividing line between those beliefs and customs that 
properly deserve to be called religious, and others which do not 
deserve the adjective. It is^ot possible, in the Andamans, to 
separate a definite entity which we can call religion from things 
that may more appropriately be regarded as art, morality, play, 
or social ceremonial. 

Nevertheless the purpose of these two chapters has been to 
explain the nature and function of the Andamanese religion. 


Amongst the fundamental conditions that must be fulfilled if 
human beings are to live together in society is the existence 
of this thing that we call religion, the belief in a great Unseen 
Power, between which and ourselves it must ever be the great 
concern of life to establish and maintain harmony. The Andaman 
Islander with his somewhat childish faith, the Australian black- 
fellow decorated with paint and feathers impersonating his 
totemic ancestor, the Polynesian sacrificing human victims on 
the marae of his god, the Buddhist following the Holy Eight- 
Staged Path, are all following in however different ways the 
same eternal quest. 



In this appendix I shall give a brief account of the technical culture 
of the Andaman Islanders, with a few comparative notes on the tech- 
nology of the Semang of the Malay Peninsula and the Negritos of the 
Philippine Islands. The Andamanese, the Semang and the Philippine 
Negritos are so similar in physical characteristics that it is reasonable to 
suppose that they are descended from a single stock. It is on the basis 
of this hypothesis that they are all spoken of as belonging to one race, 
the Negrito race. It is therefore of some interest to compare the culture 
of these three different peoples to see if we can determine what was the 
culture of their ancestors. 

In such hypothetical reconstructions of the past it is necessary to 
proceed with extreme caution, as there is no means of controlling results. 
The method I have adopted is to compare first of all the different types 
of technological products or activities found in different parts of the 
Andamans in order to determine as far as possible what was the techni- 
cal culture of the ancestors of the Andamanese when they first reached 
the islands, and what changes have taken place since the islands were 
occupied. It is only this primitive or generalised Andamanese culture 
that can be compared with that of the Semang or the Philippine 

From the point of view of technical culture the natives &f the 
Andamans must be separated into two main divisions, which will be 
spoken of as the Great Andaman Division and the Little Andaman 
Division respectively^. The most plausible explanation of the differ- 
ences of culture and language between these two divisions has been 
mentioned already. We must assume that when the islands were first 
peopled, or at some later time, the inhabitants of the Little Andaman be- 
came isolated from those of the Great Andaman. The language and the 

^ See Introduction, p. 12. 


technical culture of each of the two groups underwent a number of 
changes during the many centuries that followed. At a much later 
date, after the differences between the two divisions had been developed, 
and probably not many centuries ago, a party or several parties of 
natives must have made their way from the Little Andaman as far as 
Rutland Island. Here they came in conflict with the natives of the 
Great Andaman Division, and in this way arose the antagonism between 
the Jarawa (the immigrants from the Little Andaman) and the other 
natives of the South Andaman (who formed in 1858 the Aka-Bea tribe), 
which has lasted down to the present day. We shall find that the 
technical culture of the Jarawa has been only very slightly influenced 
by contact with the natives of the Great Andaman Division, and there- 
fore differs very little from that of the Little Andaman at the present day. 

Primitive Andaman Culture 

N. Sentinel Little Jarawa Southern Northern 

Andaman Group Group 

V — , ^ V L , S. 

Little Andaman Division Great Andaman 


I have provisionally included the natives of the North Sentinel Island 
in the Little Andaman Division. The ground for so doing is that the 
form of bow in use in the North Sentinel Island is similar to that of the 
Little Andaman and unlike that of the Great Andaman. Unfortunately, 
almost nothing is known about the technology of the North Sentinel, 
and nothing whatever about the language. It is possible that the 
natives of this outlying islet have been isolated for many centuries from 
both the Little Andaman and the Great Andaman, and further informa- 
tion about them might show that their technology is different in 
important respects from that of the Little Andaman. 

Within the Great Andaman Division there are a number of differ- 
ences in technology between the tribes of the North Andaman and 
those of the South Andaman and Middle Andaman. 

In order to render the exposition and argument that follows more 
easily understood the supposed relations of the different types of culture 


are shown in the form of a diagram or tree. The justification for this 
arrangement will appear as we proceed. 

There is only very scanty information available about the technical 
culture of the Negritos of the Malay Peninsula, whom we may speak of 
as the Semang. There are differences of technology between the 
Semang of different parts, and a careful study of these differences would 
serve to throw much light on changes that have been introduced since 
the Semang were isolated from the rest of their race. There is no 
doubt that the Semang have adopted many elements of their present 
culture from their neighbours the Sakai and others. In some instances 
it is possible to trace this external influence, but in others it is doubtful 
whether we are dealing with a primitive Semang form or with a form 
adopted from their neighbours \ 

The same thing must be said about the Philippine Negritos. Our 
information is not sufiEicient to enable us to discuss the local differences, 
nor to determine what elements of the culture have been introduced by 
contact with other races ^. 


The huts of the Andamanese are best understood by considering 
first of all the simplest and most temporary structures. A man away 
from the main camp at night (on a hunting expedition) erects for 
himself a simple shelter of leaves. Such hunting shelters vary con- 
siderably according to circumstances. In the rainy season they are 
built much more substantially than in the dry season. Sometimes 
shelter is found between the buttresses of large trees, a few leaves 
being added. There is, however, one type of hunting shelter that is 
usual. Two poles are cut and erected perpendicularly in the ground 
so that they stand about four feet apart and about four feet high. 
To the top of these is tied, with cane or creeper, a horizontal pole. 
A few poles or sticks of sufiEicient length are placed so as to lean 
against the horizontal pole at an angle of about 45°, the ends resting 
on the ground. On these are placed any leaves that can be obtained, 

^ The information here given as to the Semang is derived from two works, Skeat 
and Blagden, Pagan Races of the Malay Peninsula, vol. i, quoted as Skeat, and 
Rudolf Martin, Die Inlandstdmme der Malayischen Halbinsel, 1905, quoted as 

2 The information about the Philippine Negritos is derived from Reed, Negritos 
of Zambales, Manila, 1904, quoted as Reed, and A. B. Meyer, Die Philippinen, II, 
Die Negritos, Dresden, 1893, quoted as Meyer. 


preferably the leaves of canes and other palms. The shelter thus 
consists of a single rectangular roof, one end of which rests on the 
ground, while the other rests on a horizontal bar attached to the top 
of two perpendicular supports. The shelter is built facing to leeward. 

The usual family hut of the Andamans is built on exactly the same 
principles as a hunter's shelter, but, being intended for occupation for 
some weeks or even months, is more carefully built. For a small hut^ 
to be occupied by one family, four posts are erected, two at the back 
being from two to four feet high above the ground, while two at the 
front are from five to seven feet high. Two horizontal poles are 
attached, one to the top of the front posts and the other to the back 
posts, with strips of cane. If poles of a convenient size and forked 
at the top are available these may be used for the posts of the hut, the 
horizontal poles being supported in the forks, but a native would not 
trouble to search for such timbers, being satisfied with an unforked post. 
A few slender timbers, preferably of mangrove wood {Bruguiera), are 
placed on the two horizontal poles and bound to them with cane. These 
rafters, as they may be called, project for a foot or two above or beyond 
the higher horizontal, and similarly project a foot beyond the lower one 
so as almost to reach the ground. 

In the better kind of hut a mat is made of palm leaves, and this 
mat is placed on the rafters and tied to them with strips of cane. To 
make a mat a number of strips of bamboo or cane of sufficient length 
are taken and placed on the ground parallel to each other. Leaves of 
a species of cane are collected and each leaf is divided into two parts 
down the middle. These half-leaves are then attached to the strips 
of bamboo or cane, by means of strips of the outside of canes, the 
technique being wrapped-twined work. The half-leaves are attached so 
that the leaflets, which are attached to the leaf-stem at an angle, incline 
alternately to one side and the other. The photograph reproduced in 
Plate VII shows a hut of the kind here described. Mats in course of 
making are shown lying on the ground in Plates vi and vii. 

A quicker, but less efficient way of thatching the hut is to take 
the half-leaves such as are used for making a mat and fasten them 
in bundles of five or six directly to the rafters. 

Huts of this type, each occupied by a single family, are built by 
the natives of the Great Andaman Division in the form of villages. 
The Jarawa and the natives of the Little Andaman build similar huts 
in their hunting camps, occupied during the fine weather. 

Some huts of this type are provided with a floor raised above the 


ground. Such a floor is erected on short posts, and may be made of 
bamboos or of planks or pieces of broken-up canoes. A floor of this 
kind, raised a foot or so above the ground, is shown in Plate vii. 
Huts are sometimes to be seen with a floor raised as much as three 
feet above the ground. 

The simple Andaman hut as above described is entirely open at 
the front and on each side. In an exposed situation screens of palm- 
leaves may be erected at the side. If still more shelter is required, a hut 
may be built with two roofs. Such a hut requires six posts, two taller 
ones six or seven feet high, and four shorter ones, two on each side. 
For such a hut two mats are made, and are so attached that one mat 
projects above the other. No attempt is made to fasten the two mats 
together at the top, but on the contrary a space of several inches is 
left between them to allow the smoke of the fire to escape, rain being 
excluded by the overhang of one of the mats. Huts of this type may 
be seen in Plate vi. 

Each of the huts hitherto described is occupied by a single family. 
In order to understand the communal huts it is necessary to consider 
the arrangement of small huts in a camp or village. In the tribes 
of the Great Andaman there are two main types of such arrangement. 
The first type is that of the hunting camp, which is occupied for a few 
nights only. In this all the huts are placed facing in the same direc- 
tion (to leeward) and in a line with one another. The second type 
is that of a village to be occupied for some weeks or months. In this 
the huts are arranged round an open space, all facing inwards, as 
described earlier in this book^. All encampments in the Great 
Andaman tend to conform to one or other of these types, but varia- 
tions are introduced according to the nature of the site occupied. Thus 
in a hunting camp the site may not permit of the erection of the huts 
in one line. A village is, as a rule, only put up at a spot that has 
been used from time immemorial, where there is an open space of 
sufficient size, but if, for any reason, a site is selected where there is 
not room to arrange all the huts around the dancing ground, the 
arrangement of the village may be irregular. 

The hunting camps of the Jarawa are sometimes arranged on the 
same principle as those of the tribes of the Great Andaman Division, 
i.e., all facing in one direction and as nearly in one hne side by side 
as the site will allow. 

The natives of the Little Andaman erect hunting camps in the fine 

1 See p. 34. 


weather. In the only one that I have seen the huts were arranged 
irregularly so as to make the best use of the available space. 

A few words must be said on the sites chosen for encampments. 
It must be remembered that the islands are entirely covered with 
forest. The natives will not, if they can avoid it, put their camp under 
high trees, for fear of the danger of falling branches in a storm. At 
the same time they prefer a situation where there is an open space 
surrounded with forest so that they are sheltered from the wind. The 
coast-dwellers always camp immediately within the jungle on the shore 
of the sea or of a creek. The forest-dwellers usually choose a position 
on a hill or ridge, and this is particularly the case with the Jarawa. 
The camp must be close to a supply of fresh water. In the tribes 
of the Great Andaman Division no precautions are taken against 
a possible attack by enemies, but the Jarawa do take precautions, 
clearing the trees around their camps so that they have a good view 
of the apprpaches, and even, apparently, placing look-out stations at 
the tops of the paths \ 

Amongst the coast-dwelling tribes there are sites that have been 
used for encampments for many centuries. At these spots there are 
found heaps of refuse that have accumulated year by year. These 
kitchen-middens, as they are sometimes called, consist of the shells 
of molluscs, bones of animals, stones that have been used for cooking, 
fragments of pottery, and loam produced from decayed wood and other 

The two types of camp arrangement which are seen in the village 
and the hunting camp are exhibited in two different types of com- 
munal hut. One of these, corresponding to the hunting camp, may 
be termed the long shelter. It is apparently only used in the North 
Sentinel Island. A hut of this type was seen by Mr Gilbert Rogers 
in 1903. It was rectangular, 40 feet long and 12 feet wide. The 
roof was supported on three rows of small posts ranging in height 
from 3 feet at the back to 6 feet at the front of the hut. The roof 
projected about 2 feet in either direction beyond the posts and was 
about 2 feet from the ground at the back and 7 feet above the ground 
at the front. There were twelve places for fires, six in front and six 
at the back of the hut, and near each, on the right-hand side, was 
a platform supported on four sticks, of the usual Andamanese type, 
for keeping food. There were two rows of sleeping places which were 
separated by small poles, making rectangles on the ground about 5 feet 

^ See Census Report, 1901. 


by 4 feet, each of which was probably occupied by a man and his wife 
and small children^. 

The relation of this type of communal hut, in which all the 
members of one local group are brought together under a single roof 
of one slope, to the ordinary family hut of the Andamans, and the 
arrangement of the hunting camp in a line, is obvious. 

To the arrangement of huts in a village around a central open space 
corresponds the second type of communal hut, which may be called 
the round hut. Communal huts of this type were formerly built by the 
natives of the Great Andaman Division, but have fallen into disuse in 
recent times, owing to the natives having become much more migratory 
in their habits. Huts of the same type are built at the present day by 
the natives of the Little Andaman and by the Jarawa. 

In its typical form this kind of hut is built by erecting two circles 
of posts, a smaller circle of tall posts, and a wider circle of shorter 
posts. The tops of these posts are connected by horizontal and 
sloping timbers, which make the framework of the roof. The roof 
is made of a number of mats of palm-leaves, which are laid on the 
rafters and tied to them with strips of cane. The mats are made in 
exactly the same way as the smaller mats used for the small huts 
and already described. They are sometimes rectangular in shape, 
though occasionally an attempt is made to make them narrower at 
the top and broader at the bottom. They are arranged on the roof 
so as to overlap one another and thus make the hut rain-proof. They 
are not joined in the centre, but a small space is left for the smoke of 
the fires to escape, and the rain is prevented from entering by letting 
one or two of the mats overhang the others at the top. 

In the round huts of the Jarawa and the Little Andaman there is no 
centre-post, and according to the statements made to me by the natives 
of the Great Andaman they did not use a centre-post for their huts. 
In the description attached to a photograph in the British Museum 
Mr Portman speaks of the centre-post of a communal hut, which is 
shown in the photograph still standing, although the hut had been 
pulled down. It would therefore seem that in the Great Andaman the 
natives did sometimes erect a centre-post for their round huts. The 
typical round hut, however, has no centre-post. 

It is clear that the round hut has been developed from the village. 
If all the small huts of a village be drawn together so as to touch each 

1 Supplement to the Andaman and Nicobar Gazette^ January 2, 1904. 


Other, and if the mats of thatching be lengthened so as to meet and 
overlap in the middle, we have a round hut in its typical form. The 
evidence that this is so is afforded by the thatching, consisting of separate 
mats, often rectangular in shape (like the mats used for family huts), 
placed so as to overlap one another. This crude way of thatching could 
hardly have originated in any other way. Further evidence is afforded, 
as we shall see, by the internal arrangement of the hut. 

Although the hut is here called a round hut, it must not be 
supposed that the shape is always regularly circular. It may be 
somewhat oval, and in any case is rarely very regularly constructed. 
In general, however, the shape approaches more or less nearly to 
a circle. 

Huts of this kind vary in size according to the number of families 
occupying them. The height in the middle may be as much as 30 feet 
and the diameter may be 60 feet. The smallest I have seen was a Jarawa 
hut on Rutland Island, which was only nine feet high and 1 5 feet maximum 
diameter. In exposed situations the mats of thatching reach as far as 
the ground, but huts are sometimes built in sheltered situations with 
a space of a foot or two left between the ends of the thatch and the 
ground. A low doorway is provided on one side. 

Within the hut there is a central space that is the common part 
of the hut and corresponds to the dancing ground of the village. In 
the wet season the communal fire is situated in this open space, and 
here the communal cooking is performed. In Jarawa huts the roof 
of the central part of the hut is hung with trophies of the chase con- 
sisting of pigs' skulls bound with cane. In former times the natives 
of the Great Andaman Division hung similar trophies in their round 
huts. Around the central space are the spaces allotted to the different 
famiUes, these being marked off by means of short lengths of wood 
laid on the ground. 

It is thus clear that the basis of Andamanese architecture is the use 
of a single rectangular roof giving a shelter open at the front. This is 
the usual form of the hunter's shelter and of the family hut in the village. 
For additional shelter two such roofs may be used, but no attempt is 
made to join them, one being made to overlap the other. There are 
two customary modes of arranging huts, either side by side facing in the 
same direction or round an open space facing inwards. Where, instead 
of separate roofs for each family, we have a united roof, these two arrange- 
ments of the camp give rise to two different types of communal hut, 
the long hut and the round hut. 


In a village each hut is occupied by one family. In the communal 
hut (of either type) each family has a special portion of the hut marked 
off for its special use. Whether in a village or in a communal hut each 
family has its own small fire, at which the family meals are prepared. 
At one side of this fire is erected a small platform about a foot above 
the ground, supported on either three or four upright sticks. This 
platform is used for storing food. The natives of the Little Andaman 
erect low bamboo platforms to serve as beds, arranged round the com- 
munal hut, each family having its own. In the Great Andaman the 
natives, as a rule, make a bed of leaves on the ground and lay a sleeping 
mat on the top of this. In damp situations, however, they sometimes, 
as already mentioned, make a floor to the hut, raised a foot or two 
above the ground, and sleep on that. The Jarawa have a habit of 
sleeping in the wood-ashes of their fires in their cold weather hunting 

Turning now to the Semang, we find some differences in respect to 
their habitations. Those of the Semang who have not been influenced 
to a great extent by their neighbours and have not settled down to agri- 
cultural pursuits, never camp in the same spot for more than a few days, 
and have therefore no need to build anything except temporary shelters'. 

The Semang often erect their shelters in trees, well above the 
surface of the ground. This is a feature which distinguishes them 
from the Andamanese. It seems probable that these tree-shelters have 
been adopted by the Semang as a protection against wild beasts^ As 
there are no dangerous beasts in the Andamans, the extra labour 
involved in building a shelter in the branches of a tree instead of on 
the ground would serve no useful purpose. The difference in this 
respect between the Semang and the Andamanese is therefore due to 
a difference in the circumstances in which they live. 

The typical form of Semang shelter, occupied by one family, is 
erected by planting three or four stout sticks or poles in the ground 
in a row at an angle of about 60° or 75° and lashing palm-leaves 
across these. The screen or roof thus formed is further supported, 
if necessary, with one or two poles used as props in fronts These 
shelters are similar to the Andaman shelters in having a single 
sloping rectangular roof, but differ from them in being supported, 
not by upright posts, but in an altogether less adequate manner. 

1 Skeat, p. 172. ^ Skeat, p. 174. 

3 Skeat, p. 1 76, and plate. See also Annandale, Fasciculi Malayensis, Anthropology, 
Part I, Plate iv. 


However, the Semang shelters are apparently very easy to erect, and 
as they are only occupied for a night or two there is no inducement 
to the natives to make them more substantial. 

The Semang sometimes make a shelter by planting a number of 
palm-leaves in the ground in a semicircle so that the overhanging ends 
meet in the centred 

As the Semang are constantly moving from place to place, they have 
little use for a communal hut of substantial build. One communal 
shelter has been described, which contained eleven sleeping-places 
arranged in two long rows. The upright timbers of the shelter consisted 
of young saplings planted in two opposite rows, across them being 
lashed the leaves of a palm. There were, besides, two central posts 
or pillars, each about a third of the distance from either end of the 
shelter, and a dozen poles placed as props or wind-braces in various 
positions and at various angles, in order to strengthen the structure 
and keep it from being blown over in a high wind. The two slopes 
of the roof were not united over a ridge-pole, but a longitudinal aper- 
ture was left between them for about two-thirds of the entire length 
of the roof, and through the gap thus caused the greater part of the 
smoke from the many fireplaces issued. All round the walls were ranged 
a number of bamboo sleeping-platforms, five to six feet in length by 
about three feet in breadth. The owner of each sleeping-platform or 
family unit possessed a separate fire or hearth^ 

We have only scanty information about the huts of the Philippine 
Negritos. In Zambales (Luzon) a certain number of the Negritos 
have adopted a settled mode of life and depend on agriculture for 
some part of their subsistence. The most advanced of these have 
adopted the form of hut common amongst their neighbours. The less 
settled Negritos of Zambales erect huts which are almost exactly the 
same as the family huts of the Andamanese. Two short upright posts 
are erected for the back of the hut, and two taller ones for the front, 
and on these four posts a rectangular roof of one slope is erected. 
A bamboo floor or platform is erected a foot or so above the ground, 
just as in some Andaman huts I In the Zambales huts the upright 
posts are forked and the horizontal poles are supported in the fork. 

At Casiguran the Negritos erect palm-leaf shelters similar to those 
of the Semang. A few poles are thrust into the ground at an angle 
and in a row and palm-leaves are attached to these, the screen being 
further supported with props ^ 
1 Skeat.p. 174. - Skeat, p. 177. ^ Reed, Plate xxxviii. * Meyer, Plate x. 


A comparison of the three branches of the Negrito race in the light 
of present information shows that the usual form of habitation amongst 
them is a sloping roof or screen of palm-leaves. One form of this, the 
simplest to construct, but only suitable as a temporary shelter, is in 
common use amongst the Semang and is found amongst the Negritos 
of Casiguran. The other form, more permanent but requiring more 
labour to erect, is in common use in the Andamans and amongst the 
Negritos of Zambales. Of communal huts we have no evidence in the 
Philippines. The communal shelter of the Semang consists of two 
screens leaning towards one another. The two types of communal hut 
of the Andamans are both derived from the family hut. 

Hunting, Fishing, etc. 

The Andaman Islanders depend for their subsistence entirely upon 
the natural productions of the forest and the sea. They make no 
attempt whatever to cultivate the soil. Until the introduction of dogs 
in 1858 they had no domestic animals. Young pigs are occasionally 
kept in captivity till they are grown, but they are killed for food and 
are not bred in captivity. Thus the Andamanese provide themselves 
with food by three different forms of activity: (i) collecting such things 
as roots and fruits and honey, (2) fishing in the sea and in the creeks, 
(3) hunting the wild animals of the forest. 

For hunting the Andamanese rely entirely on the bow and arrow. 
Since they have had dogs they occasionally make hunting spears, but 
they did not do so in former times. They make no use whatever of 
any method of trapping game or birds. For fishing they also make use 
of the bow and arrow, wading out on to the reefs and shooting the fish, 
and in this they are very skilful. Crustaceans, such as crabs and cray- 
fish, are captured in the same way. In the North Andaman a sort of 
short fish spear was formerly in use as an occasional substitute for the 
bow and arrow. In all parts of the islands small nets are used by the 
women for catching small fish and prawns. In the Great Andaman 
large nets were formerly used for capturing turtle, dugong and large fish 
near the shore. At the present time the natives of the Great Andaman 
Division make use of harpoons with which they capture turtle, dugong 
and large fish from their canoes. Harpoons are not used in the Little 
Andaman. The Andamanese are also aware of methods of poisoning 
or stupefying fish in pools by means of certain plants that they crush 
and place in the water, but I have never seen them use this method of 

B. A. 27 


fishing, although they say that they formerly did so. They have no 
fish hooks and no fish traps. At the present time a few of the natives 
have learnt to take fish with hook and line, but they are unable to 
make hooks for themselves, and have to obtain them from the Settle- 
ment at Port Blair. 

In collecting roots a digging stick is used, and a hooked pole is 
used for gathering fruit, but they have no other special implements in 
use in collecting natural productions, and have no need of any. The 
adze is used for obtaining molluscs and for cutting honey-combs from 
hollow trees. 

It is thus clear that by far the most important utensil of the 
Andamanese is the bow and arrow. We may say that they are essen- 
tially a bow and arrow people. This is even more true of the natives 
of the Little Andaman Division than of those of the Great Andaman 

It may be noted here that the Andamanese have no weapons that 
are used only for fighting. They fight with their chief hunting weapon, 
the bow and arrow. Nor have they any special defensive weapons, the 
shield being unknown. 

The Semang in their natural condition depend for their subsistence 
on collecting roots and fruits from the forest, on catching fish in the 
streams, and on hunting animals. Their mode of subsistence is thus 
essentially the same as that of the Andamanese. One difference is that 
they have not the sea from which to draw supplies, and another is that 
the forests in which they live afford a much larger variety of game. 
A number of the Semang now practice a little rude agriculture which 
they have undoubtedly adopted in imitation of their neighbours of 
other races'. 

The principal weapon of the Semang, as of the Andamanese, is the 
bow and arrow. In hunting they also use spears-, thus showing a 
difference from the Andamanese. Some of the Semang make use of 
the blow-pipe with poisoned darts, but it is practically certain that they 
have adopted the use of this weapon from their neighbours the Sakai*. 
They also make use to some extent of traps with which to capture 
jungle animals and birds. The wilder Semang living in the mountains 
have little opportunity of obtaining fish. Those of them that dwell 
near rivers use fish-spears and harpoons for catching large fish, and a 
small basket-work scoop for catching small fry'*. They also fish with 

1 Skeat, p. 341. ^ Skeat, p. 270. 

3 Skeat, p. 280. * Skeat, p. 205. 


rod and line, the hooks being, as a rule, roughly manufactured from 
bits of brass or other wire^ The Semang have no special fighting 
weapons either offensive or defensive. 

In the Philippines some of the Negritos practice a little rude agri- 
culture^. It is practically certain that they have only adopted this 
mode of subsistence through contact with agricultural peoples of other 
races. They originally depended entirely upon collecting, fishing and 
hunting, and even those who now grow a few scanty crops devote a 
large part of their energies to hunting and collecting the natural 
products of the jungles^. The chief weapon of the Negritos of the 
Philippines, as of the Andamanese and the Semang, is the bow and 
arrow. They use the bow and arrow for shooting fish, having special 
fish-arrows*. It seems doubtful if they use spears, unless they have 
adopted them from their neighbours. In hunting deer the Negritos of 
Zambales use large nets like fish nets. They are acquainted with the 
use of traps for game but they seem to prefer to depend on the bow 
and arrow®. In the larger streams of Zambales they make fishing weirs 
of bamboo, after the manner of the Christianised natives of the same 

As the most important weapon of the Andamanese, and indeed of 
the Negritos in general, is the bow, we may consider this first. Different 
kinds of bow are in use in different parts of the Andamans, but by a 
careful comparison of them it is possible to show how they are all derived 
from one original pattern. 

The first kind of bow to be described is that in use in the Little 
Andaman. These bows are all made of a reddish-brown wood (possibly 
Mimusops littoralis). They are cut with an adze from a straight piece 
of wood, and are planed but not polished. The length varies within 
fairly wide limits. Six specimens selected as typical have lengths of 
131, 150, i59'5, 163, 168 and 188 centimetres, giving an average of 
about 160 centimetres (=63 inches). In section the bow is markedly 
convex on the one side and slightly convex on the other. The two 
figures (Fig. i) show the section at the middle and at a point 7 cm. 
from the end of a typical specimen. The shape in section varies a 
little from one example to another, and the dimensions of breadth and 
thickness also vary. At the broadest point, which is in the middle, the 
average breadth of six bows is 3*2 cm., the broadest being 37 cm., and 
the narrowest 2*3 cm. The average thickness in the middle is i-8 cm., 

1 Skeat, p. 205. " Reed, p. 44. 3 Reed, p. 44. 

* Reed, p. 47. ^ Reed, p. 47, ^ Reed, p. 48. 

27 — 2 




the actual figures ranging from 2'i to i'3 cm. From the middle the 
bow tapers slightly towards each end. At a distance of 7 cm. from 
the end of the bow the average breadth is i"8 cm., and the average 
thickness i"2 cm. 

The flatter side is the inside of the bow. Referring to the figures, 
the side marked A is that which faces a man as he holds the bow ready 
to shoot (called here the inside). C is thus the right-hand side and D 
the left-hand. By breadth is meant the distance from C to Z>, and by 
thickness the distance from A to B. 

At each end of the bow there is a shoulder, as shown in Fig. 2. 
The length from the shoulder to the end of the bow, i.e. the length of 



Fig. I 

Fig. 2 


Section of Little Andaman bow, in the middle and near the end 
Fig. 2. Shoulder of Little Andaman bow 

the point on which the string is looped, is about 10 to 12 mm. Both 
ends are the same. For a few centimetres below the shoulder the bow 
is served over with string or fibre. In a carefully finished bow the 
serving is usually done with ornamental string, i.e. with string round 
which is twisted the dried yellow skin of the Dendrobium. In other 
examples plain string is used, or a strip of twisted Ficus fibre, or even 
nowadays a twisted strip of cotton cloth. 

Bows are never ornamented in the Little Andaman either with paint 
or with incised patterns. 

The bow-string of the Little Andaman is made of strips of the bark 
of the Ficus laccifera. The number and width of the strips used 




depend on the size of the bow. In a small bow now in the Cambridge 
Museum the string is made of a single strip of bark about i cm. 
in width. This strip is simply twisted, the twist being that of a right- 
hand or male screw. When two strips are used they are not twisted 
around one another in the way that a two-ply rope is made, but are laid 
fiat together and^twisted together, so that when the string is finished 
only one of the strips is visible, the other being inside. In a stout 
string for a large bow three or four strips may be twisted together in 
this way. The bow-string is not a rope, but a twisted strand (Fig. 3.) 

Fig- 3 Fig- 4 

Fig. 3. Bow-string of twisted fibre, Little iVndaman 

Fig. 4. Diagram showing the method of making the loop in the end of the 
Little Andaman bow-string 

At one end of the string a loop is made, as shown in Fig. 4. The 
end is doubled over to make a loop of the right size, a round turn is 
made over the standing part (A) and the end (JB) is twisted in with the 
standing part by untwisting the latter, laying the end in, and twisting up 
again. If this splicing, as it may perhaps be loosely called, be not 
sufficiently secure, it is served over or stopped with finer fibre of the 
same kind. This loop is of sufficient size to slip down over the 
shoulders. At the other end the string is attached to the peg either 
with a knot, or else by means of a small loop (just large enough to go 
over the peg, but not large enough to slip over the shoulder) made in 




exactly the same way as the loop already described. When the bow is 
to be strung the larger loop is slipped over the peg at the top end of 
the bow and is pushed down over the shoulder. The other end (with 
the smaller loop) is then slipped on the peg at the lower end, resting on 
the shoulder. The lower end is placed on the ground, while the top end 
is held in the hand. The man places his foot against the middle of the 
bow and draws the top towards him until he is able to slip the top loop 
of the string up over the shoulder so that it catches the peg or tip. The 
bow is then ready for use. 

Toy bows are made for small boys of exactly the same general 
pattern as the large bows. A toy bow of this kind, now in the Cam- 
bridge Museum, is 107 cm. long and 18 mm. broad in the middle. 

The next type of bow to be considered is that used by the natives 
of the North Sentinel Island. I have only been able to see one specimen 

Fig. 6 

Fig- 5- Section of bow from North Sentinel Island 
Fig. 6. Section of Jarawa bow 

of this type, which is in the British Museum. It is made of a different 
kind of wood from that used in the Little Andaman. The length is 
155 "5 cm., and the breadth at the middle is 4*3 cm. The section in the 
middle, which is shown in Fig. 5, is slightly different from that of the 
average Little Andaman bow, but it has the same feature of greater 
convexity on the outside and less convexity on the inside, and it lies 
just within the range of variation of the Little Andaman type. The 
ends of the bow are shaped in the same way as those of the Little 
Andaman bow. The breadth at the shoulder, however, is 2*5 cm., which 
is greater than the corresponding measurement of the Little Andaman 
bow. The bow is not ornamented either with a painted or incised 
pattern. The string is missing. There is no binding at the ends below 
the shoulders, but this has possibly been present and come off, as the 
specimen is one that has been thrown away by its owner owing to the 
wood having split. So far as we can tell from this single specimen 


the bow of the North Sentinel differs very little from that of the Little 

We now come to the bows of the Jarawa of the South Andaman. 
The Jarawa of Rutland Island, of whom there are now very few, but of 
whom there were a larger number twenty or thirty years ago, make bows 
exactly like those of the Little Andaman, and apparently do not make 
any other kind. The Jarawa to the north of Port Blair, who have been 
driven northwards by the spread of the Penal Settlement, also make 
bows of this type, which it is not possible to distinguish from Little 
Andaman bows. These northern Jarawa, however, also make bows of 
a different kind. These will be spoken of as belonging to the "modified 
Jarawa type." They are larger than Little Andaman bows, having an 
average length of about 185 cm., with a breadth of about 5 cm. The 
section, throughout the greater part of the length, is either plano-convex, 
or, more frequently, concavo-convex. The section of a typical example 
is shown in Fig. 6. At the middle of the bow, where it is held in the 

Upper end of South Andaman bow 

hand, there is a slight thickening produced by a protuberance on the 
inside, i.e. on the flat or concave side. In a certain number of 
specimens the bow, instead of being straight, is slightly recurved out- 
wards. Finally, the wood from which these bows are cut is not the 
same as that used in the Little Andaman. 

The Little Andaman bow, the North Sentinel bow and the Jarawa 
bow are all varieties of one type. The Little Andaman form is probably 
nearest to the original of the type, and I shall show later how the 
modifications found in the modified Jarawa type came to be adopted. 

We now come to bows of a different type, of which there are two 
varieties, one used in the South and Middle Andaman, and the other 
used in the North Andaman. 

The bow of the South Andaman tribes is not cut from a straight 
piece of wood, but is cut from a tree that has bent in the course of its 
growth into a suitable curve. A tree has to be found that will provide 
a piece of wood of the required shape. From this the bow is shaped 
with an adze, and is finished by planing with a boar's tusk. 


Bows of this kind vary in length between i8o and 210 cm., the most 
usual length being between 190 and 195 cm. At the upper end the 
bow is brought to a point approximately circular in section. From this 
point it broadens out until, at a distance of about 50 or 55 cm., or 
between one-quarter and one-third of the length of the bow, it reaches 
its maximum breadth, which is, on the average, about 5*5 cm. The 
section of the bow at this point is convex on the outer side, while on 
the inner side it may be flat or slightly concave, or even in rare instances 
slightly convex. In many specimens there is a very slightly raised keel 
running down the middle of the inside of the bow. The thickness of 
the bow at the point mentioned is usually 1*5 to 175 cm., and there is 
little variation in this respect in different specimens. (See Fig. 8.) 

At the middle the bow decreases in breadth and increases in thick- 
ness to form a handle. At the handle the usual section may be 
described as pear-shaped, the greatest diameter being the thickness 
(from inside to outside) and not the breadth. 


Fig. 8. Section across the blade of a South Andaman bow 

From the handle towards the lower end the bow again increases in 
breadth, so that the lower portion is about the same breadth and thick- 
ness as the upper portion. At the lower end it tapers to a point, 
circular in section, but the point is blunter than at the upper end. 

Thus the whole bow consists of a leaf-shaped upper portion or blade 
which is straight (i.e. neither curved inwards nor outwards), a waist or 
handle, and a lower blade that is curved backwards or outwards at 
about its middle, this being the position of the bend in the wood from 
which it is cut. A bow of this type is shown in Plate v. 

Near each end the bow is served over with string for a distance of 
3 or 4 cm., leaving a bare point at the upper end of about 7 cm. long, 
and a point at the lower end of about 1*5 cm. (Fig. 7.) 

A bow-string is made from the fibre of the Anadendron. A number 
of strands of the fibre are taken and are waxed with black bees'-wax. 
Four of these strands are taken, three of them are placed together and 


the fourth is wound spirally round them. When the end of the active 
strand (the one being twisted round the others) is neared, a new strand 
is taken and laid in. The twisting is continued for a few turns and the 
newly inserted one is then taken, the end of the first active strand being 
laid in and wound over in its turn. The process continues in this way, 
new strands being added until a cord of sufficient length has been made. 
This is again waxed over on the outside. 

At one end of the cord a knot is tied. At the other end a loop or 
eye is formed. To make this eye, when the cord is of sufficient length, 
the end of it is bent over to form a loop of about i cm. or a little more 
in diameter. This loop is then served over with thread made of 
Anadendron fibre. The serving is continued over the neck of the loop 
for about 1-5 cm. This gives an eye with the appearance shown in 
Fig. 9. A loose strand of fibre is left at the neck of the loop. This is 
wound spirally over the cord, as described before, new strands being 
added one after another until the cord has been treated in this way for 
about 35 cm. from the eye. It is then stopped by serving it over for 

Loop of bow-string, South Andaman 

about 2 cm. with Anadendron thread. It is clear from this description 
that the cord is somewhat thicker for about 35 cm. from the end with 
the eye than it is in the rest of its length. 

To string the bow the knotted end of the bow-string is fastened 
round the top end of the bow with a slip knot, so that it rests on the 
top of the string serving. The bow is then turned upside down and the 
top end (now temporarily at the bottom) is fixed in the ground or 
against a stone, so that it will not slip. The other end of the bow is 
taken by the left hand, while the cord is held in the right, the right foot 
is placed against the handle or middle of the bow and the bow is bent, 
the end held by the hand being drawn towards the operator until he is 
able to slip over it the eye or loop at the end of the string. 

After the bow has been strung the upper portion, which before was 
straight, is now curved inwards, and the bow therefore appears as 
S-shaped when seen from the side. When a man starts out hunting or 
fishing he strings his bow and tests it, and it remains strung till he 
returns, when he unstrings it and places it in his hut. 


The advantage of having a knot at one end of the string seems to 
be that should the string be stretched by use it can be tightened by 
altering the position of the knot. 

At the point where the nock of the arrow is placed when the bow 
is drawn, it is usual to serve the string over with thread of Anadendron 

The peculiar features of the South Andaman bow depend on the 
fact that the bow takes advantage of the greater toughness and elasticity 
of wood that has been compressed in the course of its growth. When 
the bow is drawn the strain does not fall evenly, but, by reason of the 
shape of the bow, is concentrated on one portion, namely the lower 
portion of the bow where it is curved outwards. This is easily seen 
when a bow is strongly drawn, for from the S-shape that it has before, 
it becomes very nearly true arc-shaped when fully drawn. The lower 
portion of the bow works as though hinged, and thus the strain is 
largely borne by the curved portion of the bow. Now this portion is 
cut from the concave side of a tree that has been bent while growing, 
and consequently the fibres of the wood are here stronger, tougher and 

Fig. lo. Ornament on South Andaman bow 

more elastic. The result is that for a given amount of energy spent in 
drawing the bow a greater force of propulsion is given to the arrow 
than with a bow of the Little Andaman type. 

The breadth of the bow is necessitated by its shape, for if it were 
narrow the string would slip round on to the outside of the bow. The 
narrowing at the handle is necessary for holding the bow. The adoption 
of tapered ends instead of shoulders is a definite improvement as it 
makes the bow less liable to split at the ends. 

The bows of the South Andaman group of tribes are always 
decorated with incised patterns. The conventional pattern is shown in 
Fig. lo. One line of such pattern runs down each edge of both the 
inside and the outside of the bow, and on the inside a similar line of 
pattern runs down the middle. When bows are newly made they are 
often also decorated with designs in red paint and Avhite clay, particu- 
larly if they are intended as gifts. These painted designs soon wear off 
and are not renewed. 

In these tribes bows are sometimes made of a size so large as to be 
almost useless for hunting. One such bow, now in the Cambridge 


Museum, is 220 cm. long and with a maximum breadth of 10 cm. 
Such bows are very carefully made and decorated and are intended as 
gifts. A man generally makes such a bow with the deliberate intention 
of giving it to some person whom he wishes to please. The bow that 
I have was specially made to give to me in this way. A man who 
possessed such a bow would not dream of using it in hunting, but he 
might use it in a shooting match, in order to show his skill. 

-In the South Andaman tribes toy bows are made for boys of some- 
what the same shape as the ordinary hunting bow. An example of 
such a bow, now in the Cambridge Museum, is 121 cm. long. It is cut 
from a bent piece of wood in such a way that the lower portion is 
curved outwards. The section in the middle is plano-convex, very 
nearly the half of a circle, the breadth being 26 mm. and the thickness 
13 mm. It is broadest in the middle, and tapers towards each end. 
When strung it assumes the typical S-shape of the South Andaman 
bow. It is served over with thread at one end and with a strip of 


Fig. II. Section across the blade of a North Andaman bow 

cotton cloth at the other, leaving two points for the string. The latter 
is of the usual South Andaman type, but of smaller dimensions. 

' We must turn now to the bow used by the four tribes of the North 
Andaman, which is of a spmewhat different pattern from that just 
described. It is, in the first place, shorter, lighter and more slenderly 
made. Of ten typical specimens the shortest is 153 cm. long, and the 
longest is 182 cm. The usual length is about 160 to 165 cm. In its 
broadest part the North Andaman bow is broader than the South 
Andaman bow, the breadth varying from 6-5 to 7*5 cm. in different 

Although the North Andaman bow is, as a rule, cut from a curved 
piece of wood, it may, on occasion, be cut from a piece that is practi- 
cally straight. 

At the upper end of the bow there is a long point. In a specimen 
that is in every way typical, at about 5 cm. from the point the 
section is circular and the diameter is about 5 mm. ; ^t about 30 cm. 


from the end the section is slightly flattened or oval, and the maximum 
diameter (the breadth from side to side) is about 1*5 cm. From this 
the bow broadens fairly rapidly, until at a distance of about 60 cm. 
from the end it is 7 cm. broad. The section at a point 60 cm. from 
the end is shown in Fig. 11, where it may be seen to be convex on 
the outside and only very slightly convex on the inside. At about 
75 cm. from the end the bow narrows in breadth to form a handle, at 
the same time increasing slightly in thickness. The handle is approxi- 
mately circular in section in the middle, which is about 95 cm. from 
the upper end, and about 80 cm. from the lower end, the diameter being 
about 2*2 cm. Below the handle the bow broadens out once more 
into a lower blade which in shape and section is similar to the upper 
blade. At a distance of about 30 cm. from the lower end the bow once 
more narrows off to a point approximately circular in section. The 
lower point of the bow is not so long or so tapering as the upper point. 

The whole bow thus consists of two blade-shaped portions tapering to 
a point at each end, and with a waist or handle between them. The upper 
blade is straight, i.e. is not curved either outwards or inwards. The 
lower blade is curved outwards (like that of the South Andaman bow) 
in nearly every newly made bow and in every bow that has been in use. 

The upper part of the bow is served over with string for about 
I "5 cm. (at a distance of 15 "5 cm. from the end in the bow that has 
been described), and the lower end is similarly served (at a distance of 
6 cm. from the end). The general shape of the bow as seen from 
inside is shown in Fig. 12. 

The bow-string of the North Andaman is made from Anadendron 
fibre in much the same way as described in connection with the South 
Andaman bow, but in the North there is a loop or eye at both ends of 
the string. As soon as the first few centimetres of the cord have been 
made (by the method previously described) it is bent over into a loop, 
and this loop is served with Anadendron thread, just as in the case of 
the South Andaman string. The making of the string then proceeds in 
the usual way until a sufficient length has been made, this depending, 
of course, on the length of the bow for which it is intended. The end 
is then bent over into a loop, and this loop is served over with thread. 
The loose end of fibre is not in this case (as it is in the South Andaman 
string) twisted round the standing part of the cord, but is laid beside it, 
and the thread that has been used for serving is wound spirally round 
them both for a distance of about 10 cm. from the neck of the loop, 
so that the end is stopped. 


Fig. 12. North Andaman bow seen from the front 

Fig. 13. North Andaman bow ; ^, in the half-strung or reversed position, B, in 
the fully strung position. The arrow shows the point where the bow is seasoned over 
the fire. 


When the bow is to be strung the first made loop is slipped over the 
top end of the bow so that it rests on the thread serving already 
mentioned^ the neck of the loop being on the inside of the bow. The 
bow is then laid on the ground, inside downwards, a foot is placed on 
the middle, and the lower end of the bow is bent upwards (and there- 
fore outwards) far enough to allow the other loop of the cord to be 
slipped over the end. The bow is now in what may be called the half- 
strung position, and in order to understand the mechanical principles of 
this type of bow it is necessary to make quite clear what this position is. 
It is shown in Fig. 13, A. The string passes from the top to the bottom 
on the outside of the bow, so that the bow is, so to speak, reversed, and 
is subjected to a strain that causes it to curve outwards. In most bows, 
when they are first made, there is an outward curve in the lower 
portion, owing to the bow having been cut from a curved piece of 
wood. When the bow is half strung this outward curvature is increased. 
If a bow be made from a straight piece of wood, an outward curve is 
produced by the operation of stringing it, as described above. 

As soon as a bow is completed it is strung in the reversed position 
described, and is then placed over a fire, in such a position that the 
lower (curved) blade is immediately above the fire. The smoke and 
heat of the fire season the wood of this portion of the bow. Any 
specimen of a bow of this type, unless it has been newly made and not 
seasoned, is blackened on the inner surface of its lower part. The bow 
is left to season in this way for some time. A man places his bow over 
the fire of his own hut, which is kept constantly burning day and night. 
It must be remembered that all the time it is being seasoned the bow is 
subjected to a slight strain curving it outwards. 

After the bow has been sufficiently seasoned it is brought into use. 
When a bow that is half strung or strung in a reversed way is to be 
used, it is taken by the handle in the left hand, with the string away 
from the body, the bow being upside down. The lower part of the bow 
(i.e. what is really the top of the bow when it is in its normal position) is 
rested against the thigh. The string is taken in the right hand and 
pulled over towards the body, so that the bow reverses itself and 
appears in the fully strung position shown in Fig. 13, B. It is then ready 
for immediate use. 

A bow of this type is hardly ever entirely unstrung. When a man 
has finished with his bow for the time being, he puts it once more in 
the half-strung position, by an action the reverse of that described above, 
and then hangs the bow over the fire. Thus while the bow is in active 


use it is in the fully strung position, and at all other times it is kept in 
the half-strung position. 

It is clear that the North Andaman bow depends on a principle that 
is not made use of in the South Andaman bow, which we may state by 
saying that if a piece of wood be subjected to the influence of heat and 
smoke while it is bent in one position it will acquire greater strength 
and elasticity to react against a strain that bends it in the opposite 
direction. When the bow is fully strung it is S-shaped. When it is 
drawn the greater part of the strain falls on the lower portion where it 
is curved outwards. It is this portion of the bow that is strengthened 
by seasoning. 

The North Andaman bow is very much lighter than the South 
Andaman bow and is much more elastic. I always found it very 
difficult to shoot with a South Andaman bow, but on the other hand I 
found the North Andaman bow very easy to use. In drawing it only a 
slight pull is required in order to send an arrow with considerable 
velocity. The disadvantage of the northern bow is that, owing to its 
slighter build, it does not last very long, and is liable to be broken. 
However, it only takes a man a few days to make a new bow, string 
included, and the very definite superiority of the North Andaman bow 
over that of the South Andaman amply compensates for its shorter life. 

Bows of exactly the same shape but of smaller dimensions are made 
in the North Andaman for boys, the length varying from about 90 cm. 
to about 120 cm. For very small boys toy bows of a different pattern 
are made. The bow is formed of a piece of wood about 90 cm. long 
and from 2 to 2*5 cm. broad in the middle. The section in the middle 
is convexo-convex, with a high degree of convexity on the outside and 
a much slighter convexity on the inside. The bow tapers to a point at 
each end, but it tapers more gradually at the top than at the bottom. 
The bow-string is a simple piece of string (two-ply) made of Anadendron 
fibre. It is tied to the lower end of the bow at a distance of i"5 to 
3 cm. from the end, and at the top it is tied at from 4 to 7 cm. from 
the end. The shape of a toy bow of this kind as seen from the side is 
shown in Fig. 14. It is not S-shaped, like the toy bow of the South 
Andaman previously described, but the curvature is asymmetrical. 

I obtained a specimen of a toy bow made of bamboo. Unfortunately 
there was no string, but it was probably intended to be strung in the 
fashion of the North Andaman toy bow just described. The outer 
surface of the bamboo was the outside of the bow, with the result that 
in section the inner side of the bow was more convex than the outer 




side. This is the only bow in the whole of the Andamans in which I 
ever saw this feature. In all other bows of whatever 
type the outer side is markedly convex and the inner 
side is either concave, flat or only slightly convex. 

It is now possible to compare one with another 
the different forms of bow in use in the Andamans. 
It would seem almost certain that the North Andaman 
bow can only have been derived from the form in use 
in the South Andaman or from one very similar to 
it. It is only after they were in the habit of making 
bows with an outward curve in the lower portion 
that the natives could have devised the method of 
seasoning this portion of the bow and keeping it in 
the reversed or half-strung position. It is unnecessary 
to argue the matter in detail, and we may conclude 
that the North Andaman type is derived from the 
South Andaman type. 

It is less certain, but still highly probable, that 
the South Andaman form was derived from a bow 
similar to that still in use in the Little Andaman. 
The South Andaman toy bow shows a stage inter- 
mediate between the Little Andaman bow and the 
usual South Andaman form. The section of this 
toy bow is very similar to that of the Little Andaman 
bow. It has no blades, and therefore no waist for 
the handle. The shape, however, is asymmetrical. 
Owing to the different method of stringing it, the 
shoulder at the end of the bow is unnecessary, and 
the bow is strengthened (prevented from splitting so 
easily) by tapering the end to a point instead. The 
difference between the toy bow and the general 
South Andaman bow is the presence in the latter 
of the two blades and the waist. The broadening 
of the bow into the blades is necessary in order to 
prevent it from accidentally reversing itself. 

We have still to consider the modified form of 

the Jarawa bow. The origin of this is easy to discover 

by the examination of a few typical specimens. Since 

the Tarawa have been in the South Andaman they S- H- "^"^ '^°Y' 
•^ . . . . •' of the North 

have been in hostile contact with the tribes of Andaman 




the South Andaman Division. They have had opportunities of handHng 
bows of the kind made by these tribes, and they have apparently dis- 
covered that these bows are more efficient than their own, but they have 
had no opportunity, such as only friendly intercourse would give, of 
discovering the principles on which the South Andaman bow is made. 
They have attempted to imitate it to the best of their ability, and this they 
have done (i) by making their bows longer and broader, (2) by making 
them concavo-convex in section instead of convexo-convex, (3) by cutting 
them occasionally from wood that gives them an outward curve in the 

Primitive Negrito Bow 

Little Andaman 

Jarawa Bow 

South Andaman 

North Andaman 

North Andaman 
Toy Bow 

lower portion, (4) by imitating the shape of the handle without, how- 
ever, giving the bow a waist, (5) by serving over the bow-string with 
thread at the point where the arrow touches it, (6) by ornamenting 
their bows with incised and painted patterns. These are the only 
differences between the modified Jarawa type and the Little Andaman 
type, and all these may be explained as attempts to imitate the bows of 
the South Andaman Division. In not a single one of the modified 
Jarawa bows that I have seen is the fundamental principle of the South 
Andaman bow successfully applied. 

B. A. 28 


We may conclude that the ancestors of the Andamanese at one 
time used a bow resembling that in use in the Little Andaman at the 
present day, and that the S-shaped bow of the Great Andaman has been 
invented since the separation of the two main divisions of the race. 

It is not possible, owing to lack of sufficient information, to deter- 
mine exactly the types of bow used by the Semang. The following 
notes are based on only six specimens, two of which are in the Museum 
of Ethnology at Cambridge^, while the others are in the British 
Museum. Four of the specimens are sufficiently similar to one 
another to be regarded as belonging to one type, which seems to be the 
usual type of Semang bow. In length they are 165, i74'5, 182 and 
197*5 cm., and at the middle they vary in breadth between 2*5 and 
3 cm. Three are of palm-wood, and the other is of a light-coloured 

Fig. 15. Section across the middle of four Semang bows 

but tough kind of wood. The shape of the section in the middle of 
the bow varies considerably in the different specimens, as shown in 
Fig. 15. There is some uncertainty as to which is the inside, and 
which is the outside of the bow. At each end there is a shoulder, 
the point or tip at on